Point of Beginning

Letters to the Editor

May 1, 2001
Thoughts on educational requirements and survey safety.

“Letters to the Editor”

January 2001

Over the past several years I have heard many people speak out against the need for educational requirements for registration. From my experience, [those people against educational requirements] falls into one of three areas:

1. Anger. The person is opposed to educational requirements because the job he or she was in became a dead-end job when educational requirements went into effect and they did not get grandfathered into the profession. These individuals usually disdain those with a degree and think that educational requirements are irrelevant to this profession.

2. Fear. The person is opposed to educational requirements because he or she feels that a younger, more qualified person with less experience could replace him or her. This individual is very comfortable with plane surveying but struggles with geodetic concepts and the like.

3. Status Quo. The person says, “This is the way it always has been; no need to change now.”

Following educational requirements is the natural evolution of this profession, which has become infinitely more technical and complex in the last 25 years. As professionals we need to understand not only what button to push but what happens when that button is pushed.

Education is only as good as what the graduate puts into it. I am proud of the education I earned and think it was a great start. Do I feel I should get to skip the four years of apprenticeship prior to getting a license? NOT on your life; field experience is more crucial then ever before.

Those caught in dead-end jobs because of regulatory change should talk to their employers about getting the education required. Many employers are willing to send employees to school part time and pay at least a share of the cost. Look into distance education.

Employers also need to realize what a person with a degree is capable of doing and what position he or she should fill in a firm directly out of school. The graduate of a degree program should be capable of the following:

1. Crew chief—running a crew after one to two weeks in the field to get accustomed to the way your office does business.

2. Computation tech—able to compute a survey and, with very little direction, submit the computations for review to a manager.

3. Client contact—able to maintain dialog with clients and speak intelligently about the project in a manner that the client can understand.

Employers should expect this and more from graduates. But, in return, don’t expect to pay them $7 per hour. Employers, if you don’t like what you see in the graduates of a program, talk to the program coordinator and your local surveying society. Your money and employment talks and people are listening.

David Shafer, LSIT, EIT Peoria, Ill.

I have enjoyed your magazine for several years and have always read the feedback pages with great interest. The debate on requiring a college education has been going on for as long as I can remember, but I would like to give everyone a different view.

I began as a rodman about 12 years ago without a college education. I have been employed for consultants, underground mining and as a construction surveyor. I am currently in the process of taking my examination for state licensure. There was a time early in my surveying career when I thought long and hard about going to Penn State to acquire a degree in surveying, but realized how bad of a decision that would have been for me. First I had to realize that once I went to school, my previous experience was null and void. Then, I would have four years of college to pay for, and I would start out making the same amount of money. Working in the field, combined with study from college level survey text accelerated my learning curve at an incredible pace. Now I have about $400 million worth of roadway experience, and I am right where I want to be in my field. What will my PLS do for my career? Not much. Some of you might respect me a little bit more because of it, but others will look down their collective noses because I am uneducated in their eyes.

If you want to go to school, I think you should. If you want to work through apprenticeship, I think you should be able to do that, too. In the end, you give everyone the same test, and those who pass have the aptitude to be a surveyor. Unfortunately, they might never have what it takes to make it in the field because surveying is part knowledge, part reasoning, part field procedure and work ethic. Ultimately, here is what it really comes down to: you’re mad because you paid for four years of schooling and make the same as a guy who didn’t. The fewer people in the field through education requirement exclusions will make you more money regardless of your talents. That doesn’t help the profession; it helps your wallet and satisfies your ego.

Ron Gribble

via E-mail

“Letters to the Editor”

March 2001

This is in response to the letter written by Jay M. Schwandt from Grand Rapids, Mich. His letter is a great example of why there is so much emotion among surveyors on the subject of educational requirements for licensure.

There seems to have been a line drawn between surveyors like Mr. Schwandt and those like me. I started surveying 15 years ago right out of high school. I didn’t know a thing about it. But I took the time to teach myself, I studied at night after work, I asked a lot of questions, I paid attention to what my crew chiefs were doing. Now, 15 years later I’m laying out $8 million buildings and surveying sections, and doing topographies over acres and acres of land. But yet, my state decided that a person who went to school and got a degree is better qualified to be a “professional land surveyor” than I am. So … I am stuck being “just a surveyor,” and I love it!

I don’t wear a shirt and tie to work. I don’t attend meetings with architects. Nor do I negotiate million dollar contracts. I am what your clients see when they go to the jobsite—muddy boots and all—and when they ask if I have my license, I tell them no and explain why; they’re even more confused by our profession.

The field surveyor who works in the rain and the snow, and deals with dogs and angry homeowners is just as important and professional as the surveyor who wears that shirt and tie to work everyday. Yet we don’t get the respect from those tie-wearing types. We are looked down upon as being a lower form of surveyor. That is the feeling I had after reading Mr. Schwandt’s letter.

I take great pride in how I’ve become the surveyor I am. And this pride carries over to the jobsite where I have earned the respect of the job superintendents, the concrete guy and the steel workers. They all need to trust me completely—and do. In their eyes I AM a professional. Too bad some of my peers don’t feel the same way.

Tony Pesavento

via E-mail

Survey Safety

Sadly, in my 18 years in the surveying profession, two men I have had the pleasure of knowing have lost their lives and several others have been badly injured. Being a supervisor myself, I must ask that all of us in responsible charge educate the field and office personnel in safety procedures, supply them with adequate equipment and time to properly prepare their work environments prior to performing their tasks. Just as important are annual refresher meetings updating safety standards and equipment to keep safety procedures fresh in the minds of the personnel. Following strict guidelines and performing onsite visits to assure proper safety procedures are met could possibly help save someone’s life.

Field employees—take the time to review each project and its hazards, be aware of your surroundings and areas of special concerns. Establish a safety “network” throughout the worksite and maintain the procedures all the time while in the area. If you want to learn safety procedures, or if the proper equipment and manpower have not been adequately supplied, demand it. It is your and your crews’ lives on the line out there—protect it.

In remembrance of Michael Keller, inspector/surveyor.

Michael O’Brien, PSM

via E-mail

Errata:

The February Contributing Editor’s Note contained an error regarding the NCEES Task Force. The Task Force was not formed by NCEES as stated in the article; the seven organizations named in the fourth paragraph make up the Task Force. NCEES is not a member of the Task Force.

The ideas and opinions expressed by our readers do not necessarily reflect those of POB.