Gis Skills Gap: Addressing The Shortage Of Qualified Professionals

Geographic information systems (GIS) have become an integral technology across many industries. As GIS continues to expand into more areas, demand for qualified GIS professionals is far outpacing supply. This growing skills gap threatens to limit the potential of GIS and stunt progress in sectors relying on spatial data and analysis. Addressing the shortage of talent requires a multifaceted approach by all stakeholders to build sustainable education pipelines and make GIS careers accessible to more people.

Current State of GIS Job Market

The job market for GIS professionals is booming. Employment of cartographers and photogrammetrists, key roles within GIS, is projected to grow 19 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average across all occupations. Openings for GIS analysts and technicians will increase over this period as geospatial technology becomes more commonplace. Increased adoption of GIS across business, government, and academia is fueling strong demand.

Despite burgeoning opportunities, employer surveys and industry research point to an undersupply of qualified candidates. Location intelligence firm GISinc found that almost half of GIS employers in 2017 had difficulty filling open positions, a significant increase from five years prior. The supply-demand imbalance spans entry level to executive roles across technician, analyst, and developer jobs requiring GIS skills.

Causes of the Growing Shortage

Multiple issues contribute to the gap between rising GIS job opportunities and limited qualified talent. On the supply side, university programs are not producing enough graduates fluent in the technology. Students are often unaware of GIS career paths or face barriers entering them. Meanwhile, demand grows more diverse and dynamic, requiring new combinations of technical and domain-specific expertise.

University GIS programs struggle to keep pace as geospatial technology and analysis techniques evolve. Educational institutions face budget and resource constraints in updating curricula, labs, and software. Their structural nature also inhibits rapid response to shifting skillset needs. Limited visibility further hampers schools’ ability to expand programs and attract students.

Students commonly view GIS as abstract and technical, without realizing its versatility and growth potential. Those interested may become discouraged by math and IT requirements. Established professionals in other domains are often unaware of GIS applications in their verticals. Such issues restrict the talent pipeline of new graduates and mid-career transitions into GIS roles.

On the demand side, GIS adoption is diversifying across sectors like business, government, and academia. But specialization needs vary widely, requiring expertise to apply GIS capabilities to different use cases. Obtaining the right blend of geospatial knowledge and vertical domain skills poses a challenge. Rapid software advancements also pressure employers to update requirements.

Addressing Educational Needs

Expanding formal GIS education is an essential step to growing talent. Improving university programs and campus visibility can increase graduate output. Additional certifications and post-academic training provide supplemental capacities to bridge skillset gaps.

Improving University Programs

Modernizing GIS curricula and tools is necessary for universities producing the next generation of practitioners. Courses and research should align with industry dynamics like cloud GIS, spatial statistics, visualization, and storytelling. Upgrading labs can enable students to access leading software.

Targeted outreach and showcasing successful alumni can raise awareness among potential applicants. Supporting professors and offering GIS electives across domains also promotes visibility. Such initiatives can increase program capacity and enrollments over time if sustained.

Additional Certifications and Training

Alternative credentialing plays a key role augmenting academic programs. Options like GIS certifications, bootcamps, and online courses support experiential development. They provide flexibility for different learning styles while being updated dynamically with skills in demand.

Entry-level technicians can obtain certifications demonstrating core competencies to employers. Specialized training allows professionals to gain expertise applying GIS to specific industries like urban planning or environmental science. Continuing education ensures practitioners’ technical abilities evolve with best practices.

Making GIS Careers More Accessible

Expanding and promoting professional pathways into GIS can tap wider talent pools beyond existing educational channels. Options to transition from related fields should be clearer to raise awareness of geospatial opportunities.

Formal technical requirements can be reduced where applicable to enable switching from adjacent disciplines. For example, experienced developers or data scientists moving into GIS may not need extensive retraining. Apprenticeship programs also lower barriers entering the industry without traditional education.

GIS associations, conferences, and publications offer visibility to professionals in other segments. They can communicate transferable skills and intersecting applications to draw new entrants. Employers posting positions also have a role communicating versatility and growth potential.

Building the Next Generation of GIS Professionals

Cultivating interest in GIS from a young age establishes early talent pipelines. High school and college students better understand modern career paths and educational requirements. This shapes decisions to pursue relevant training when formalizing career plans.

GIS contests, summer camps, and inviting professionals as guest speakers raises engagement among youth. Work-based learning like internships provides direct experience to inform decisions. Such initiatives expose more students to the field and convey preparation expectations well before entering the job market.

Opportunities for Employers

Proactive initiatives by employers themselves are instrumental in developing talent. Partnerships with universities create pipelines for entry-level hiring needs. Internal training programs allow developing expertise aligned to specific roles. Adjusting outdated norms around location flexibility also expands viable talent sources.

Partnerships with Universities

Collaborations on curriculum planning, guest lectures from working professionals, and sponsored projects/competitions give employers direct channels to students soon entering the job market. They provide forums to convey real workplace skills demands to help shape graduate readiness. Talent filters directly into entry-level openings through recruitment programs, career fairs, and intern conversions.

Internal Training Programs

Dedicated development programs focused on domain specialties bridge gaps hiring from general external candidate pools. Rotational cross-training ensures well-rounded experience. Such investments offset costs of attrition and lost productivity from new hires lacking targeted capacities required.

Remote Work Options

Enabling remote work expands viable talent geography rather than being restricted to certain locale. Professionals unwilling or unable to relocate can fill open positions. This adjusts a frequent limitation given GIS workforce distribution imbalance relative to industry demand hotspots. Flexibility also improves employee satisfaction and retention.

The Path Forward for GIS

Realizing the potential of GIS technology relies on developing a robust workforce able to apply its capabilities. Narrowing the growing skills gap requires improving formal education pathways along with access to supplemental training. Employers, associations, and academia must collaborate to promote the field to new entrants.

If talent constraints go unaddressed, innovation and impact will taper. But through coordinated efforts to expand experiential development channels and convey versatile career opportunities, GIS is poised for continued growth powered by capable practitioners.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *