J.A. Jones, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – Last week was National Surveyors Week. Really? If this awareness campaign had you scratching your head, you probably weren’t alone.
Land surveying is a vital part of any building or construction project, but the number of professional surveyors and survey field technicians entering the market is in decline.
Faye Watson, founder and director of DAB Community Services, Inc. and Rohland Bryant, a long-term educator who helped to establish and served as director of the Public Works Academy at Pinellas Technical College (PTC), are putting together a plan to address the impending jobs crisis.
“Nothing happens without a valid survey—nothing. No roads, no buildings, nothing,” explained Watson. A former Sarbanes-Oxley compliance auditor, Watson has long known jobs creation was an area she wanted to tackle, and National Surveyors Week presented an opportunity.
Faye Watson and Rohland Bryant
Bryant and Watson reached out to industry experts and employers to confirm the impending shortage of professional surveyors and survey field technicians. Together, the roles are responsible for mapping and measuring the land used in the development of new buildings, roads, highways, developments, malls and arenas. But the industry has been hindered by the fact that few, if any, people consider land surveying as a career.
This general lack of awareness about the field was part of the impetus behind the creation of National Surveyors Week.
“The industry was challenged because people were not aware of what surveyors did, so it was their way of introducing the surveying industry to the public,” stated Watson.
Now Watson and Bryant are working hand-in-hand with these same industry employers and experts to bring a survey field technician program to the region housed at PTC.
“Surveying is a very exciting and interesting field,” noted Bryant. “Every house that’s sold must be surveyed first. Every house that’s purchased must be surveyed first. Every time you pull a permit it must be surveyed first.”
Bryant explained that everything concerning facilities construction—be it a tall building, a house, a mall, or a dome—must be surveyed first. So, surveying is an integral part of our society and unfortunately, there’s a great shortage of surveyors in the field.
Retirement and attrition have impacted the number of surveyors in the field today, and, as Bryant remarked: “There’s not a whole crew coming in to create a replacement.” Along with Watson, Bryant is passionate about the creation of a training program to fill the shortage of qualified survey technicians, and both are eyeing PTC as a possible partner in the endeavor.
Florida Surveying and Mapping Society (FSMS) Executive Director Tom Steckler shared his support for the concept.
“To help meet the needs of Florida’s growing infrastructure and to brings jobs to our local communities, the development of an education program at Pinellas Technical College is crucial. This program will provide students with the education and training they need in order to have successful careers in the surveying profession and become leaders in their communities.”
Steckler said many of Florida’s surveying and mapping members are approaching retirement and there is a great need to bring in young, smart men and women into the ranks as quickly as possible.
“Investing in this program [is] investing in Florida’s future,” he said.
Gregory Crawford, Sr. vice president of Utilities and Transportation Survey at George F. Young, Inc., one of the state’s largest survey firms, also expressed his support.
“With almost 100 years providing survey services in St. Petersburg and throughout the state of Florida, we have experienced the decline in qualified technical field staff for the surveying industry,” shared Crawford.
With surveying services required for virtually all development, from buying a home to design and constructing of roads, housing and commercial properties, there is an increasing need for entry-level survey field technicians.
“A training program for Survey Field Technicians at Pinellas Technical College will be a great asset to the community,” said Crawford.
The Bureau of Labor Statics reported in 2016 that the median pay for survey technicians was $42, 450, $20.40 an hour. That kind of pay will help move people out of poverty.
Watson envisions a workforce development training program fueled by collaboration and partnerships between businesses, professional associations, academic institutions, equipment manufacturers, community organizations and industry-based training professionals to ensure the success and sustainability of the program.
With Bryant’s nearly four decades of experience as a Pinellas County technical educator and professional and Watson’s experience in process-oriented analysis and community program development, together they make a formidable team to bring this initiative into being.
For more information, contact Bryant at (727) 893.2500 ext. 2589, (727) 580.2248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.