Editor's Points: Teaching Young Surveyors
“Don’t do it for the money.” That’s what my wife, the professional teacher, told me when I was offered an opportunity to teach as an adjunct professor at a local university. She was right. On an hourly basis, the prep time, classroom time, testing and follow up put me well below flipping burgers. But, it was an opportunity to share what I had learned and to offer some insights from the profession I hoped most of them would join. Not surprisingly, it was also an opportunity to learn. Students can ask good questions.
Teaching an elective course, my first class period was devoted to presenting an overview and strongly promoting the field. As with surveying, the realities of an aging corps of professionals wasn’t exactly pulling young professionals into the vacuum. A problem with any profession that acts largely behind the scenes is that lack of visibility doesn’t arouse early curiosities, and we are forced to do our best to redirect and fine tune career choices to benefit and grow the profession. An advantage we have is our direct experience and deep knowledge of what things are really like in our profession.
Tantalizing stories from the field can help liven up those dull chapters that are the basis of the standardized testing that is the bane of anyone who has stood in front of a classroom full of blank faces. Kudos to the academics who work to gain practical experience, but what the active professional lacks in formal teaching skills, he or she more than balances with real-world knowledge.
If your local university, community college, or high school/vocational school has a program that includes land surveying, by all means, get involved. If it has an engineering or construction program, look for that dormant land surveying class or one of the more open-ended course titles that could be structured to introduce surveying and then approach the university department head. Start with a guest lecture or two and get your feet wet.
If the structured approach is too difficult to maintain with a busy schedule and time in the field, a solid alternative is to become a mentor. The ACE Mentor Program (www.acementor.org) has had success in its target areas of architecture, construction and engineering, and Jack Kalavritinos, president and CEO, has spoken at industry events, so there’s an avenue to get programs started in surveying. ACE Mentor has affiliates across the country.
One way to start mentoring and teaching is to take interns. A key to success here is to give interns meaningful work. Don’t just use them to clear up a backlog of trivial things that have been gathering dust on some obscure shelf. Show them what the profession is really like and engage them. As with those students in the classroom, they can pose some really good questions.
Judging by the results of POB’s annual Salary and Benefits study, you love what you do – job satisfaction clearly explains why there are so many surveyors at the top scales on experience and age. If you love what you do, it will show, and if you can communicate that while you’re teaching or mentoring, we’ll be on the road to growing the number of young surveyors.