Guest Column: Surveying Strong In Spite of Itself
We are our own worst enemies, we can’t get out of our own way, we miss opportunities and we never seem to get paid what we are worth. We are Eeyore, Charlie Brown and Wile E. Coyote all rolled together.
We also know that, at the end of the day, these are not negatives. We are cautious by nature. We know that things are not always as they seem at first glance, and ours is a profession of rules, laws and proof. We watch fads come and go. We know that the land is the one constant; they just plain aren’t making any more. We are honest and take our licenses seriously. We take to heart our responsibility to hold the safety and welfare of the public paramount. We also practice in a world that is concrete. We map and measure those things that “are” and that “exist.” Our brethren in civil engineering, construction and architecture create real objects from their abstract designs and, in a figurative (and real) sense, we do play in their sandbox. But we do something very unique and somewhat opposite. Where they create the real from the abstract, we develop abstractions (maps and models) of things that are real. Our feet are always on the ground — the poison-ivy-covered, swampy, snake-ridden, rocky, icy, thorny, wonderful God-given ground.
A lot is changing behind the scenes (and right in front of our faces) in our profession and, when that is combined with our historical role, society’s need for what we do and the underlying quality of character that defines the surveying profession, our importance continues to be critical. And here is the news… I am beginning to feel as if we are going to be fine in the long run. I believe the surveying profession is turning a corner, and here is why:
100% NSPS Membership
After decades of debate, a consensus was reached and a balance struck on continuing our focus on strong state societies and the essential need for the surveying profession to be understood as under the same roof nationally. By finally figuring out how not to sacrifice one for the other, state membership value has increased and national prominence has improved.
In 2011, and after several years of tireless work by a dedicated committee headed up by Dr. Joshua S. Greenfeld, PLS (Professor Emeritus, New Jersey Institute of Technology), the first Surveying Body of Knowledge (BOK) was approved. The essential visioning question of, “What should a surveying professional know in order to have a full, productive and relevant career?” was discussed, compiled, vetted and ultimately published through the peer review process. Along with being a yardstick for measuring one’s own preparedness for practice, the shear breadth of the Surveying BOK makes clear how much knowledge it really takes to practice competently in today’s technology-driven professional environment. A link to the full text of the Surveying BOK can be found on the NSPS website at www.nsps.us.com.
In October of 2014, NSPS approved the following resolution regarding the long-term goal for the profession, as it related to formal education prior to licensure:
“The official position of the National Society of Professional Surveyors shall be that a bachelor’s degree in surveying, surveying engineering, or surveying engineering technology be the minimum educational requirement for licensure as a land surveyor in all jurisdictions.”
Through the enacting of this policy, NSPS has articulated a clear national vision for the surveying profession and provides a very specific goal. Implicit in this policy is the understanding that timetables and intermediate steps for the implementation of such a vision will vary by and between jurisdictions, and may be many years in the offing. So, though to some this may seem like a somewhat gratuitous and arguably toothless tiger, it very effectively provides the profession, academia and regulators with a crucial statement regarding education whenever discussing issues of practice preparedness and competency. Having a national consensus on the minimum educational requirement for licensure forms a valid education-related justification for the numerous association initiatives across the country. No matter what professional issue you are working on (e.g. expanding business opportunities, licensee discipline, creating or continuing academic programs, faculty recruitment, continuing education, accreditation, etc.), having a national consensus on education provides for the bolstering of the surveying profession’s advancement.
Young Professional Groups
I’ve saved the best for last. Everyone knows that the mean age of surveyors continues to climb, and I suspect that it won’t be long before the mean will pass the minimum age for collecting Social Security benefits. Of course, this will sadly be followed by a rapid dropping of the mean age of surveyors (if you catch my drift). This phenomena has brought about broad concern that, as the aging surveyors have held on to leadership roles in the state and national profession simply because there were so few newcomers, a risk to the continuity of programs and leadership is upon us. FIG, NSPS and numerous state organizations are now actively building formal networks of younger practitioners willing to take the reins. By building what I call cross-generational relationships, pathways for the transition of leadership are being forged all across the country. Younger members are working with active leaders to learn the ropes, build their own peer network and prepare themselves for their turn to run the profession.
So, you may still catch me occasionally noting that the sky is falling, the end is near or the profession is doomed, but I do think we have turned a corner. If we continue to support the above initiatives, the next generation of surveyors will have the opportunity to prosper while practicing this grand profession.