Having been involved with Geographic Information for more than 15 years, I have seen many changes to our industry including advances in both hardware and software, and the advent of new, disruptive technologies that have turned the sector on its head. Change is constant and, at times, it is extremely difficult to keep up with new developments, let alone shape them. For this, organisations need the best available talent … and talent that is at the cutting edge of new skills and ideas.
The Association for Geographic Information (AGI), as the voice of the UK geospatial industry, is keen to ensure our companies and professionals are at the forefront of “what’s hot” in geospatial. As part of this activity, in January 2015, AGI launched the Early Careers Network (ECN), a scheme to provide additional support, training and advice to geospatial professionals at the start of their careers and who will potentially be future industry leaders.
ECN is aimed at those who have less than 10 years commercial GI experience and is applicable to both professionals and students (AGI membership for students is free). We also have a number of ECN members who are professionals re-skilling from other industries.
Getting better acquainted
Our goal is to create opportunities where early career professionals can meet, make friends and contacts as part of a community. To better understand their needs and expectations, the findings of a recent questionnaire (see www.agi.org.uk/news/agi/743-topline-results-of-recent-ecn-survey) have helped us deliver more relevant support and training. It has also shaped our events programme with the introduction of ECN webinars on a range of topics, from technical (such as cartography) to careers advice.
We work closely with colleagues in academia, e.g., UCL, which recently hosted a GIS Careers Day and where we provided mentoring, mock interviews and CV skills training. We also have established links with industry (including Ordnance Survey and Triad) that assist with venue hosting for events and the provision of senior staff mentors. And we are building ECN hubs within some of the larger geospatial organisations as a local focus for activities.
Charting a course
Part of our mission is to provide information and opportunities for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to help members maintaining their knowledge, skills, and progress to Chartered Geographer status.
For this purpose, we work closely with the Royal Geographical Society and Royal Scottish Geographical Society, both of which share our view that chartership is a key career milestone for geospatial professionals. We have held a number of joint networking events that will be extended across the country. Last year also saw the inauguration of the AGI Award for Outstanding Early Career Professional to help raise the profile of ECN members.
On a personal level, I was particularly keen to help set up the ECN as, in the absence of such a helping hand during my early career, and as the sole GIS person within my organisation, non-GI managers could not always offer effective advice. I think I would also have benefitted from some tips and/or practice in preparing for that big presentation or job interview. ECN aims to provide this type of support.
ECN is run by a small group of volunteers who importantly, are mostly made up of early career professionals and who give their time to organise training, events and other activities. In doing so they also gain valuable experience, opportunities and useful connections in the industry. So if you want to get involved in the network or as a volunteer we would love to hear from you.
For more information please contact [email protected]. You can also access links to the webinar series and other information at www.agi.org.uk
Andy Murdock is an experienced GIS consultant at APMgeo and leads a volunteer team of early career professionals to deliver the AGI’s Early Careers Network. He is also a final assessor for the RGS Chartered Geographer (CGeog) scheme