POB has supported a number of efforts to address the immediate and long-term challenges of recruiting and retaining talent in the professional land surveying profession. One effort that has been underway in the United Kingdom and is spreading to the U.S. and other countries is Get Kids Into Survey (GKiS). Launched by Elaine Ball, a regular columnist for POB, the program has grown to the point that it needed more full-time management. POB talked to Elly Ball, who is now directing the effort. 

POB: What was it that triggered the launch of the effort you now identify as Get Kids Into Survey?

Elly Ball: Get Kids into Survey started November 2017 when The Survey Association in the UK asked Elaine Ball for marketing material to give out at their annual meeting. Elaine was working with a cartoonist at the time for some marketing campaigns, and Elaine and I had both recently been discussing that when people attend conferences and shows that they go around asking “what giveaways do you have to bring home to their kids?” Elaine immediately wanted to create a fun kids poster that the surveyors at the AGM could take home to their kids and teach them what daddy/mummy does at work. Elaine made some calls to various companies in the industry asking for sponsorship so that we could fund the cost of the cartoonist and for printing. Our original sponsors were Trimble, Leica, Topcon, TopoDOT and local UK surveying company Storm Geomatics. Once the first poster was out there, people wanted more.

POB: Get Kids Into Survey has clearly grown from that simple giveaway for kids.

Elly Ball: It started out as a fun way to get the next generation excited about a career in surveying and a way for parents to pass the baton, as it were, to their own kids. It was also a lot of fun! However there is a deeper root as to why this has taken off and why we are so passionate about driving it forward. Over 85 percent of UK surveyors said they have problems recruiting due to a lack of qualified applicants (RICS, 2015). In fact, “the skills shortage has now overtaken planning and regulation as the second biggest problem facing the industry” (Telegraph 2017). There are fantastic organizations like FIG and the NSPS who have both launched young surveyors networks to support surveyors aged up to 35 – but we also feel there’s a more basic challenge: To generate interest in surveying as a career while kids are still in school! So here we are. 

POB: The surveying profession talks about a crisis attracting new talent to the profession. Where do you see Get Kids Into Survey playing a role in the future of surveying?

Elly Ball: Our philosophy and goal is to educate and excite the next generation of surveyors, and we want to do this through fun and engaging material, content and media. Although our main focus and material is aimed at 8–12-year-olds, our mission goes beyond those limitations. Through our fun creative content and media we also want to educate and excite the public. We could just educate children, but if the general public are still confused about what a surveyor is, then we have no hope. We want to educate everyone. We want to bring surveying back to life. I see GKiS playing the role of bringing the wider surveying community together, globally. Collaborating with other organizations around the world – tying in education from early childhood right though to higher education, apprenticeships, employment, career progression and professional development. We want to bring everyone together.

POB: How can surveyors get involved in raising awareness and supporting efforts to bring young talent into the surveying profession?

Elly Ball: Professional land surveyors can get involved by going to schools and presenting, sharing stories and exciting projects they have worked on and what cool tech they get to use daily. Surveyors can utilize things like GKiS free resources by ordering posters to take to local schools. We also plan to bring out activity sheets and other fun ways to engage a young audience. 

POB: How does an effort like Get Kids Into Survey support those individual efforts?

Elly Ball: GKiS is here to support and help the community. Simply telling us what you are doing as an individual – we can then work with you and provide you with resources or connections to take your efforts a step further. We want to connect those that are working individually to also help one another. You can reach out to us via our social media or emailing me at elly@getkidsintosurvey.com

POB: You have an “ambassador” who has been visiting schools in the UK to integrate surveying topics into school curriculum, tell us a little about her.

Elly Ball: Get Kids into Survey have teamed up with Alison Watson. Alison is an ex-land surveyor and the founder and Chief Executive of U.K. social business “Class Of Your Own” (COYO) established in 2009.

In the past decade, Alison has created the innovative “Design Engineer Construct!” (DEC) suite of accredited learning programs, qualifications and STEAM challenges focused on the Digital Built Environment. Available to students age 11-18 and coupled with a full teacher training program, DEC is supported by world leading companies, professional bodies and universities.

Alison’s first U.S. school has had lots of fun with COYO’s “Hotel Underground” Challenge from January to April, transforming a London Tube [underground transit train] station to a James Bond-themed hotel. The challenge is being used as a design focused preamble to the Design Engineer Construct! Level 1 program.

POB: What advice do you have for a surveyor who sees the problem but is struggling to find a way to contribute to a solution?

Elly Ball: Get in touch with us and we can make a plan! Let’s all help each other out!  

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