Education and training are crucial parts of extending the life of the surveying profession. However, higher learning opportunities for students are increasingly hard to find.
One group in particular, located in the UK, has taken it upon themselves to address the shortage of surveying training throughout the country.
The Survey Association (TSA), formed in 1979, took over the Survey School of Worcester in May 2014. The Surveying Course offered by the school is committed to training the next generation of surveyors, and TSA has made it a priority to expand the number of courses available to students.
In 2018, the Survey School was happy to celebrate the graduation of 31 students, nine of which gained distinctions, four that received prizes for outstanding achievement, and two students, who travelled from Abu Dhabi specifically for the hands-on training in the principles of surveying.
Andrew Crumpler, senior tutor, TSA Surveying Course and the Survey School, has been a tutor for the past 18 years. He’s also a Fellow of RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors), a member of CICES (Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors) and a member of the Chartered Quality Institute.
He spoke to POB about the school and its curriculum, the barriers that students face in the surveying industry today and the future of surveying as a whole.
Q. I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about yourself and your background.
A. I graduated with a degree in land surveying in 1974 and have had a wide and varied surveying career, working overseas in Africa, the Middle East, the Far East and Europe, as well as in the UK. My experience has been in construction, topographical surveys, photo control, measured building surveys and legal boundaries. I can give the students at the Survey School the benefit of my experience, passing on best practices and what I have learned from those I have worked with. I am still learning from the variety of work my students are engaged in.
Q. What does the curriculum look like? Are there different tracks for survey, photogrammetry, or other paths in the profession?
A. The TSA Surveying Course consists of six units, taught in two-week blocks here at Worcester. It is a rigorous course with assessed class and practical exercises, and a written exam for each block. Between blocks, the students are set an assignment related to the work they have done. This survey project is undertaken in their workplace. Typically, one day of fieldwork and two to three days of writing up are required. This project contributes to their overall grade. After each block, a report is written on each student and sent to their employer. At the end of the course, there is a graduation ceremony, where students receive a TSA Survey School certificate, which is industry recognized.
Teaching for each block is a mix of theory, classroom exercises and practical field exercises, with the aim to get out in the field on most days. There is a maximum of 15 students in a class to enable individual attention … and for the class to work in small groups for practical exercises.
The content for each block is as follows:
- Block 1 includes the use of levels and total stations, with some survey math and the history of surveying.
- Block 2 majors on topographical detail surveying, contouring, sections and monitoring.
- Block 3 covers intersection, resection, photogrammetry and GNSS.
- Block 4 consists of measured building surveying, building elevations, surveying underground utilities and the theory of river/hydrographic surveys.
- Block 5 covers setting out for construction.
- Block 6 includes survey management, areas, volumes, GIS, industrial measurement and legal surveys.
The course is well supported by the leading players in the industry, who provide visiting speakers for talks and allocate time to demonstrate the latest equipment to students on each block.
The Survey School also offers several non-examined short courses of two, three and five days’ duration on specific aspects of surveying, including photo imaging.
The school runs a specialist five-day Underground Utility Surveying Course (this is examined), and students can undertake a government-recognized Level 3 ProQual qualification in Utility Surveying at the same time.
TSA and the Survey School also offer the government-recognized level 3 ProQual qualification in Engineering Surveying. This is undertaken independently by the student and is not taught. The ProQual qualification is useful for students as it provides evidence of a relevant academic qualification in order to obtain a CSCS card (Construction Skills Certification Scheme), a requirement for working on a construction site.
Q. Does the coursework and successful completion of the course prepare the students for licensing?
A. The UK does not have a licensing system for surveyors; [however,] the students who pass the TSA Surveying Course have a pathway to attain membership of the professional bodies. Graduation (passing all six blocks) from the course will fulfill 100-percent of the academic requirement for those wishing to upgrade from student to technical membership of Chartered ICES. The student must also provide a detailed report showing three years of relevant experience, a full CV, a year of CPD reports and a completed Principal Sponsor Form.
The TSA Surveying Course provides 50-percent of the points required for the RICS Associate (AssocRICS) qualification.
Q. What kinds of backgrounds do you see survey/geospatial students coming from?
A. Most of our students are already employed as surveyors and sponsored by their employers. A few are privately funded, but are practicing surveyors and a few are looking to add surveying to their existing skills.
Q. How does the School attract students – advertising, promotion, social media, outreach/school programs, cooperative efforts with profession, etc.?
A. Students are attracted to The Survey School though its association with The Survey Association (TSA). The trade association for commercial survey companies in the UK has over 180 members, [and] TSA members receive a discount on course fees. The Survey School and TSA websites, together with social media, are used to attract and promote the Survey School and the TSA Course in Surveying.
The Survey School has the advantage of being the only commercial organization providing the TSA Surveying Course curriculum. The Survey School courses are aimed at adults who already have some industry experience.
The government has recently introduced a Surveying Technician Apprenticeship, and there are several universities offering degrees in geomatics-related studies. The surveying profession and organizations such as a “Class of your Own” and “GetKidsIntoSurvey” have a good outreach into schools.
Q. What is the retention rate/hiring rate once students are in the program?
A. On a typical intake of 12 students, we would expect 10 to complete the full two years of study. We find that, due to work commitments, some students will swap between courses, and some will defer and return later as was the case this year with two overseas students. This year, we had four courses with 37 starting at Block 1 and 31 students graduating in 2018. All are employed.
As of August 2018, we have three females studying on the TSA Course, making up 8-percent of students on the TSA Surveying course. Our next intake was due in September.
Q. What are some of the barriers you face in attracting and keeping good students who will graduate and enter the profession?
A. The major barrier to the profession is the willingness of employers to invest in the training of young surveyors. There are a variety of reasons for this. Firstly, the TSA Surveying course does not attract any government funding, which is a major obstacle for many organizations who wish to spend the training allowance they have paid in as a tax levy (organizations with a payroll over $3.9 million).
Small employers do not want staff to leave if they have spent time and money on training them, and especially if they see another company hiring a ready-trained employee without the training cost. Historically, the industry has often recruited trained surveyors from outside the UK, making it less attractive to invest in training or recruiting trainees.
In general, it can be difficult to get a trainee post in the survey industry without previous experience or qualifications as very few posts are advertised.
Q. How can those currently in the profession best help bring more future surveyors into the profession?
A. Employers can help by taking on new recruits from their local area, direct from school or college. For small firms, some on-the-job training has been made harder with the use of robotic instruments and network GNSS. Where a one-man team is used, the old method of “Sitting with Nelly” is harder to achieve and takes both commitment and investment of time, resources and money by the employer. Larger organizations with a dedicated HR department and training budget are often more able to provide the training opportunities required.
In general, there needs to be a commitment to train local people and not just import ready-trained staff. The carrot for the new employee is that the training will lead to a qualification and the pathway to becoming professionally qualified, and thus, progress in their chosen career.
The high-tech nature of many surveying tasks is an attraction to many, and giving new recruits the opportunity to get hands-on wherever possible encourages them to develop their skills. Today’s students are already familiar with working in a 3D digital environment through playing computer games, and theses skills can be developed and transferred to the survey processing environment.
Andrew Crumpler is senior lecturer and tutor at The Survey School. He is a chartered surveyor with over 40 years of practical experience, and has worked on major survey projects in the UK and around the world. He has used his vast experience to help train others at The Survey School for the past 18 years.
For full details on the Surveying School and the Surveying Course, visit www.surveyschool.org.uk.
Career Notes is a regular feature in POB magazine that aims to help surveyors learn from how others work. To share your story in a future issue, please email Managing Editor Alexis Brumm at email@example.com.