As every land surveyor in the United States should be fully aware, the land surveying profession is facing a crisis. The attrition rate of retiring licensed surveyors is almost even with the incoming rate of newly licensed surveyors. During a surveying seminar I recently attended, I learned that there are approximately 40,000 licensed surveyors in the United States with an average age of 58. Therefore, according to my estimates, in the next 10 years, about 15,000 licensed surveyors will hang up their plumb bobs and opt for retirement. Within that 10-year time period, at the rate I’ve seen the profession going, only about 12,000 to 15,000 surveyors will become licensed. In 2005, for example, only 38 newly licensed surveyors passed the exam in the state of Virginia. In order to change the status quo and discontinue this “graying of the profession,” it is necessary to attract our youth to careers in land surveying. The Virginia Association of Surveyors (VAS) is working to do just that.
The Birth of an Ongoing Recruitment EffortIn the spring of 2005, in an effort to promote surveying, the VAS organized a fundraiser for its Educational Supplement College Fund, dedicated to supporting the formal education of future surveyors. To garner donations, VAS members participated in a 544-mile walk-a-thon along the Virginia portion of the Appalachian Trail. Members also promoted the trail trek to local newspapers for increased exposure of the surveying profession.
Ultimately, 83 VAS members and associates (along with two dogs) hiked the trail and raised $20,000 for the fund. The ensuing public relations generated throughout the commonwealth for the VAS and the land surveying profession was worth its weight in gold. The majority of the funds raised have been donated to the surveying programs at Old Dominion University and East Tennessee State University. Although the original goal of the fundraiser was to raise money, the event ultimately served as a public awareness program for the surveying profession.
Regional SupportThe fundraiser was so successful that VAS members decided to encourage the other 13 state survey associations along the Appalachian Trail to organize similar fundraisers and promote the land survey profession on a national scale. As state president of the VAS in 2006, I discussed this idea with the other state survey associations as I attended their conventions throughout the year. As the idea has spread, the challenge to organize fundraisers has been accepted and results are now coming in from various states across the eastern United States.
After witnessing VAS’ fundraising success, the Surveying and Mapping Society of Georgia (SAMSOG) came on board to hike its portion of the trail to enhance surveying’s future. SAMSOG successfully hiked the 75-mile Georgia portion of the Appalachian Trail by dividing it into two sections in April. One group hiked the south section and another hiked the north section. According to Dan Collins, LS, on the first night of the trek, SAMSOG members faced temperatures below 20 degrees, 30 mph winds and freezing rain and snow. Despite the perilous weather conditions, Georgia’s tough surveyors got the job done and collected approximately $8,000 in donations for SAMSOG’s Educational College Fund.
North Carolina and Tennessee
Next on the agenda is the North Carolina Society of Surveyors’ (NCSS) planned Appalachian Trail hike on September 14-23. Brian Souva, LS, says the trekkers will be tasked with soliciting funds from participating sponsors in either dollar amounts per mile or lump sum sponsorship investments. The goal of NCSS is to raise more than $5,000 to benefit the NCSS Education Foundation. All 20 NCSS chapters will be hiking the North Carolina 300-mile portion of the Appalachian Trail, which has been divided into 21 segments consisting of one-, two- and three-day hikes. The hikers will carry medallions commemorating the event on their treks. At the end of the event, the medallions will be gathered, mounted and framed for an auction at the 2008 NCSS convention.
The Tennessee Association of Professional Surveyors (TAPS) are encouraged to hike the 71 miles of the Appalachian trail that leaves Virginia and goes through Tennessee before beginning to follow the Tennessee-North Carolina border.
Maryland and West Virginia
According to Bob Banzhoff, LS, the Maryland Society of Surveyors (MSS) plans to hike its 41-mile section of the Appalachian Trail this summer, beginning at Harper’s Ferry and ending at the Pen Mar State Park at the Mason-Dixon line. Because West Virginia also features a two-mile stretch of the trail as it passes through Harper’s Ferry, VAS members are encouraging the West Virginia Society of Surveyors (WVSS) to hike its portion.
Once the Appalachian Trail has been hiked up to the Mason-Dixon line (the halfway point of the 2,000-mile trail), VAS members are encouraging the northeastern state surveying societies to continue the chain of hikes all the way up to Maine. The Appalachian Trail sections for these states include: a 232-mile hike in Pennsylvania, a 74-mile hike in New Jersey; an 88-mile hike in New York; a 52-mile hike in Connecticut; a 90-mile hike in Massachusetts; a 146-mile hike in Vermont; a 161-mile hike in New Hampshire; and a final 281-mile hike in Maine.
A Call For SupportNow that the challenge to raise funds for the support of future surveyors has been issued to all of the states along the Appalachian Trail, we’re excited to see how the fundraisers will unfold. The hikes that have already taken place have proved to be a very successful fundraising and public relations tool for the land surveying profession. Each fundraiser has successfully gathered money in support of educating the future surveyors, and has also raised public awareness about the surveying profession at large. It is important to expand this public awareness campaign for the land surveying profession. It’s time to walk the walk and talk the talk. Happy Trails.
For more background on VAS’ fundraising efforts and additional examples for improving the fate of the profession, visit POB’s “Who Will Survey Tomorrow?”