The Geospatial World Forum developed as meetings of industry, policy makers and academics. It regularly attracted people from more than 100 countries and illustrated the maturity and diversity of the geospatial industry in Europe. A Transfer of Innovation Project called GeoSkills Plus is seeking to bridge the gap between the maturing industry and their labour force needs and the supply of qualified, well trained people.
According to Kadaster, there are more than 15,000 professionals currently working in the Netherlands and this figure is expected to grow by 20% in the coming 5 years (Foundation Labour Market and Geo Information). Eurogeographics confirm there are more than 100,000 mapping professionals in Europe. The sector is booming and in 2014 directly employs more than an estimated 550,000 people in Europe. However there is already a clear mismatch between workforce demand and supply.
In order to ensure its growth is not limited: we need policy developments that build a European education/training system with the capacity and capability to raise awareness of the geospatial sector, create a geospatially literate workforce and European citizens who can benefit from our developments.
Almost all aspects of our economy and society are based on geoinformation and geotechnologies. More than 80% of all information produced today has a geospatial component. Citizens are being empowered by geospatial technologies and geodata, not simply ICT. They are tracking, mapping and communicating geographically on an unprecedented scale. But most of them do not have the fundamental spatial skills to enable them to benefit from this new emancipation.
Leading industrialists should ask why it is that “geospatial” so rarely appears on the policy agenda. They should also be concerned and comment on its invisibility in the Digital Agenda for Europe.
We must have European policy that integrates our industry and research needs with policy and education if we are to meet changing industrial demands and stimulate further geospatial industry developments.
The European Commission should respond to these urgent needs and ensure the “geospatial workforce” becomes a high priority. We must increase education activities to produce the workforce we need now and for the future. The goal must be to integrate spatial literacy, spatial thinking and geospatial technologies into schools, colleges, higher education and initial and continuing forms of teacher training. Education and Training 2020 and specifically the Digital Agenda must develop a strong geospatial perspective which is developed through a regular, full and open discourse between industry, education and policy makers.