The head of the Asia Pacific’s largest GIS group has warned of a major skills drought in one of Australia’s fastest growing sectors.
As thousands of secondary students prepare to transition to tertiary studies this week, Brett Bundock – Managing Director of the Esri Australia and Esri South Asia groups – has called on the nation’s leading universities to extend the reach of their Geographic Information System (GIS) programs.
Mr Bundock cited a recent Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information (CRCSI) report that projected a nation-wide shortfall of 500 tertiary-qualified GIS specialists by 2017.
Speaking on international GIS Day, Mr Bundock said non-traditional markets were rapidly adopting GIS technology and driving an unprecedented demand for skilled professionals.
“Once the sole domain of land management agencies, governments and defence, the technology is becoming increasingly commonplace inside commercial groups,” said Mr Bundock.
“In recent years, we have seen it adopted by Australia’s major insurers, banks, resources groups and retailers – to name just a few.
“Currently, the Australian sector is worth in excess of $2.1b and I anticipate we’ll see this figure double – if not triple – over the coming decade.
“The only factor that could stymie this growth is a lack of development of local talent.”
With 200 employees, including 50 new recruits each year, Esri Australia is the country’s largest employer of GIS professionals.
Mr Bundock identified the nation’s capital as most at-risk of being adversely affected by the skills drought.
“The sheer volume of spatial roles on offer in Canberra means it can take up to three months to fill vacancies,” Mr Bundock said.
“The city is home to many of the country’s most prolific GIS technology users, including Australia’s Department of Defence – which has recently made provisions to grant more than 65,000 military and civilian personnel with access to Esri’s ArcGIS platform.”
The value of GIS technology has become more widely-known since its use in the recovery efforts following the 2011 Brisbane floods.
Its recent use in the search for missing Malaysian Airline’s flight MH370 and the tracking of international Ebola outbreaks has further cemented its status as an emerging critical business system.
Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute (SSSI) President, Professor John Trinder – an Emeritus Professor at the University of NSW (UNSW) – has projected a mass shortage of GIS professionals within this decade.
“Many people are familiar with locations defined by satellite navigation and popular mapping apps in general, so they already have a certain level of skill in the use of geospatial data,” Professor Trinder.
“However, applying the technology to manage vast repositories of geospatial data requires specialist skills, which will be essential for the future management of location-based services worldwide.
“Regardless of which industry you choose to focus on, you will be making a positive difference to the way people live their everyday lives.”
GIS Day – held on 19 November – is a global initiative coined by Esri Founder and President Jack Dangermond, as an annual salute to users of the transformative technology.