April 12, 2018

Endangered Species

The Land Surveyor
Blog endangered surveyor

The Minnesota Society of Professional Surveyors (MSPS) launched a letter campaign recently on behalf of Minnesota-based College, St. Cloud State University (SCSU), and its Land Surveying/Mapping Sciences (LSMS) program which is under intense scrutiny. Due to the college’s budget cuts and lower-than-normal enrollment over the past few years, the program now faces significant restructuring, or worse, termination. Those of us in AEC industry nationwide are in a position to help influence the outcome of this decision and to encourage more work to generate awareness of the profession in high schools.

Minnesota is one of many states that require a four-year survey degree in order to obtain professional licensing. The LSMS program in St. Cloud is the only four-year program in the Midwest’s six-state region and has just landed on the endangered list. If we don’t support this and similar programs across the U.S., our profession and the clients we serve will feel the impact.

Westwood employs about 30 licensed surveyors across the firm nationwide, with 20 having four-year degrees. More than half of those are from SCSU due to our headquarters and largest operating office situated in Minneapolis, MN. SCSU is the largest source for our company’s survey team as well as internships for the profession.

As a professional surveyor and the CEO/president of one of the country’s leading surveying and engineering firms, I find the news from SCSU to be very disturbing. The survey profession already has a shortage of qualified professional surveyors, with the average national age being around 60, according to Point of Beginning Magazine.

“…there will soon be a large marketplace void for young people to fill once the existing group retires. … it is important that stakeholders in the profession exercise as much influence and effort as they can to educate young people about the opportunities and make them more aware of the surveying profession in general to hopefully entice them into it.”  (V. King, June 2016)

Due to Minnesota’s four-year licensing requirement for surveyors, the elimination of SCSU’s LSMS program would require Westwood’s Minnesota-based offices to identify surveying candidates who are willing to relocate, making it very difficult to staff locally.

This is just one of many similar issues our profession faces nationwide that has the ability to greatly affect our business – and, unfortunately, much of the blame can be placed on us, the professional land surveyors. Having devalued our services for years, we are becoming more and more challenged to fill seats in our colleges, our offices, and on our crews.

 “… The path to licensure gets a little tougher each year. Education requirements increase, gone are the days when practical knowledge would let you sit for the exam, today a four-year degree is required.” (In most states)  (G. Jeffries, 2018)

Encouraging the next generation of land surveyors to invest in education will require standardization to education requirements for licensure and a more realistic and balanced pricing structure for our services, accounting for the necessary and real benefit of the profession.  

Whether the program is being assessed at SCSU or elsewhere across the country, our industry will feel the effects of the outcome. I believe it is our responsibility to support the profession in any way that we can. Please take a look at the email letter from MSPS and share your support of the LSMS program through the steps they’ve provided. See the letter template here, as well as their letter content ideas.

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