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How do we plug the geospatial skills gap in Scotland?

How do we plug the geospatial skills gap in Scotland?

March 2024
Location Data Scotland hosted a fruitful conversation at the AGI Scotland conference on 27th Feb 2024.

A diverse audience of industry, public sector, academia and students met to discuss strategies to tackle the skills gaps across the sector in Scotland at the recent AGI Conference. While Scotland has the highest rate of geospatial jobs in the UK, the demand is primarily concentrated in major cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow. Skills gaps are clear. Individuals keeping up with rapid advancements in technology areas like remote sensing, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and data management can be challenging and extracting meaningful insights from geospatial data requires strong analytical and data visualisation skills.

Skills Panel at the AGI Conference
From left to right, Ashley Stewart, Lead on Location Data Scotland, Jenni Doonan, Fife College, Alan Corbett, Scottish Government and Nikki Smith, British Geological Survey.

There are also gaps across different industries like environmental management, urban planning, and transportation, which have specific applications for geospatial technologies. Understanding these nuances and creating a range of blended skills to the chosen field and individual industry sectors is crucial.

As a nation, there is limited geospatial training/skills pathways available, currently study is only available at MSc level. And whilst most people ‘fall into geospatial’ as a career rather than choosing it as a path the lack of pathways causes recruitment challenges for the sector. The problem lies at the lower end of the education ladder – schools, colleges and community projects involving young people (Scouts, Youth Clubs etc) and to attract young people into the industry and choose geospatial as a career path, they need to have the knowledge much earlier in the educational journey. Most school aged children have played Pokemon Go but what they don’t realise is that the technology powering that game is geospatial and it opens up a full spectrum of exciting skilled jobs and opportunities. A huge knowledge gap also lies with parents who don’t see geospatial as a career path for their children. Education needs to be given to parents, with clear examples of the power of this technology across different sectors such as financial services, agriculture, space and tourism.

Geomatics Manager at Shell, Rob Dunfey said:

“I am very supportive of initiatives to build geospatial skills. Obviously, there is value for employers such as Shell in being able to recruit geospatial professionals, but more importantly for broader society and the economy. I truly believe that geospatial skills are going to underpin our energy transition to net zero.”

Skills Panel Session at AGI Conference hosted by Location Data Scotland
Picture courtesy of Cameron Easton on behalf of AGI Scotland

Location Data Scotland working in partnership with University of Edinburgh and AGI Scotland are calling for industry to help close the skills gaps. More information is needed from industry to define the essential future skills for the geospatial industry at all levels within their organisations, not just individuals at MSc level.

We need your help. Please get involved in the programme so we can help influence future generations to consider geospatial as a career path. If you would like to be part of this movement, register your details here and we’ll be in touch with next steps.

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LDS to host skills panel at the AGI conference

LDS to host skills panel at the AGI conference

February 2024

Developing the skills agenda for the geospatial sector in Scotland is critical to ensuring a pipeline of skilled talent is available to expand the economy and grow the sector. Scotland is currently limited to courses at MSc level; thus, impacting the breadth and diversity of individuals training and coming into the sector.

By bringing together leaders from industry, and academia LDS, in partnership with University of Edinburgh and AGI Scotland, has been working over the last 2 years to identify the skills gaps in geospatial across Scotland and has created a unified skills roadmap for the future. Our ambition is to create more jobs using geospatial skills and make Scottish talent more marketable to industry, attracting more companies to set up in Scotland as there will be a cluster of skilled talent, and a dedicated pipeline of highly skilled personnel to support emerging industry requirements. The work on developing the skills roadmap has resulted in a first-of-its-kind pilot programme being initiated with Fife College to develop and test a dedicated geospatial skills course as an introduction into the Geospatial industry.

We are delighted to be hosting a panel at the AGI Scotland conference on 27th February 2024 in Glasgow, bringing together key individuals from across the sector to build on the work already done and explore where we go from here.

Alan Corbett, Head of Geospatial at The Scottish Government

Alan heads up the Scottish Government’s Geographic Information Science and Analysis Team (GI-SAT) within the Digital Directorate. Alan has worked in the Scottish Government’s Geographic Information Service (then SEGIS) since 1998 when the geographic information was first introduced within Government. He has been instrumental in promoting the use of GIS within Government and the Scottish Public sector and is delighted to see how GIS mapping and analysis has developed into an integral part of the decision making process for policy directorates and senior Ministers within the Scottish Government.

Alan’s primary responsibility is giving advice to both internal and external stakeholder on how GI data, systems and analytical processes support strategic decision making across all Scottish Government Directorates and its partner organisations with projects such as the National Resilience and recently the Government Covid Response. He is also responsible for substantive projects or initiatives within the Scottish Government such as the collaboration and procurement of geospatial data for the Scottish Public Sector. Leading on the Public Sector Geospatial Agreement (PSGA) for Scotland, Alan’s role is to ensure it delivers strategic direction, robust timely data and value for money to support all Scottish Public Sector organisations in the delivery of their statutory requirements.

Jenni Doonan, Head of Projects, Faculty of Engineering & Technology, Fife College

Jenni had a 15 year career working in engineering in the European Space Industry before moving into education. She has spent time working at the University of Edinburgh on the Data Education for Schools project as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Deal before moving to Fife College as Head of Projects in the Faculty of Engineering & Technology. She is responsible for developing innovation projects which give the college the capability and capacity to provide education in new and emerging skills areas.

Nikki Smith, Senior Digital Specialist, British Geological Survey

Nikki is a Senior Digital Specialist within the International division of BGS and has a focus on the design, development and implementation of custom spatial data capture and delivery systems, as well as the design and implementation of digital workflows. Nikki also works extensively with international geological surveys as they aim to increase the use and delivery of their geospatial data, and her work has taken her from Europe to Africa to Central and SE Asia. In addition, Nikki is the Vice-Chair for the Association for Geographic Information – Scotland committee.

Ashley Stewart, Senior Consultant for Optimat and Lead for Location Data Scotland

Ashley co-ordinates and manages Location Data Scotland, on behalf of Scottish Government, to transform services and create new products using geospatial technologies and/or location data in Scotland.

She specialises in data, digital and emerging technologies. Ashley is experienced in techno-market/demand analysis, technology roadmap development, strategy and commercialisation support to private and public sector organisations. Ashely has a BA (hons) Marketing, an MSc IT with Web Development and a PhD in Technology Enhanced Learning and Communities of Practice.

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