As the “One Man” surveyor Mr. Govero references in his letter of February 1, 2016, I concur wholeheartedly with his concern and observations. He is correct in assuming I benefited from my experience with other companies along the way, and I encourage others to do so as well. I learned early always to look at a job as more than a paycheck, but as an experience and stepping stone.

But why single out the solo surveyor trend as a contributing factor (among many) to the decline in our numbers? The comments: “by having employees you not only contribute to the economic impact of your community, but you are also providing education and training in the profession and quite possibly planting the seed of future surveyors”… and …“New technology is great, but let’s help the future of the surveying profession by passing along our knowledge by hiring, training and mentoring new people in the field” insinuate we may not be pulling our weight. Couldn’t the question be asked just as easily as to why aren’t the surveying/engineering companies hiring and training up more surveyors?

Of course, the answer for both situations lies in economics. I too have been a mentor to several who went on to get licensed and lead professional lives. But most of these were determined individuals who would have succeeded regardless of any influence I might have bestowed. Do solo practitioners not also contribute to the community by providing a service? Do we not keep the wheels of commerce rolling in a smaller, maybe even more profitable way?

Since the downturn, the pipeline for those on the path to licensure has turned to a trickle. The crew members of 10 years ago have moved on in order to survive. There are fewer opportunities to learn the necessary field work and fewer students in our programs. Many engineering firms in my area no longer desire to support the cost of a surveying department and find it easier (cheaper) to subcontract the work. As the economy strengthens, hopefully this will change.

So, who will replace me? Am I no longer contributing to the profession? Am I doing damage to the profession I love by not hiring and training my replacement? What will happen to the accumulated knowledge of the past 30-plus years locked in my aging mind? Is it wisdom or mere whimsy, worthy of passing on or best left to be forgotten? In my situation, the kids are out of the house, there’s room for an office, the equipment is paid for and the overhead is low. The opportunity to return to my “first love” for the profession is ripe. The opportunity to control my own destiny, be my own boss and dig that old corner out of 100 years of silt, to delve into the dusty books and records seldom opened by the younger generation because I’m under my own deadline. And yes, the ability to “not” be an employer.

In a nutshell, why not have fun? My friend’s concern is well founded, and the solution illusive. May I submit that as the economy improves and the supply of surveyors remains short, shouldn’t our services be at a premium? Shouldn’t we require a higher fee? Would not more prosperous surveyors, driving BMWs perhaps, eventually lure more students into our surveying curriculums? Would not higher wages for the PLS at the “multiple people” firms attract qualified mentors to train up a new crop of competition?

Richard Tolbert, PLS

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