CEO's Report April 2019

Elsewhere in this GeoMessage, President Zaffar Mohamed-Ghouse and Queensland Regional Chair Paul Reed discuss the launch of an important report into skills shortages across our industries.

The report, Determining the Future Demand, Supply and Skills Gap for Surveying and Geospatial Professional, was coordinated by ACS with SSSI as a funding partner for the work.

Amongst many other report findings, this one is a key:

surveying and spatial scientists will be in a capacity deficit position at the national level for the next five years to FY2023

A few days before the report’s launch, I was lucky enough to address a Global Surveyors’ Day Lunch in Sydney with Tony Proust, President of the Institution of Surveyors NSW.

The topic, Perspectives on Global Surveying, was a challenging one for me.

I am not a surveyor, nor a spatial professional, nor any great expert on our sector (although I am learning quickly). My “perspective on global surveying” is therefore a bit different to most of the people at the lunch – and I guess, that of many SSSI members.

It’s a perspective not of an industry participant, but of someone who has spent a lot of his professional life guiding governments to make the right decisions, helping industries understand how governments work, acting as a translator between the two, and turning around membership-based organisations.

I like the definition of surveying as the “second oldest profession”. But like the oldest profession, surveying has some market and technology challenges, and a bit of an image issue too.

There are fewer surveyors now than a generation ago, and the demographics indicate there will be fewer again in the years to come. The demographic bubble of baby boomers exiting the industry is causing both a knowledge and leadership drain that the pipeline for new talent is nowhere near able to fill. In fact, the pipeline itself – technical and tertiary – continues to shrink.

In the meantime, newly emerging geospatial technologies and professionals – with little or no regulation, a thousand points of entry, and very few barriers to new competitors – are filling many of the roles formerly exclusive to surveyors. This is not just an Australian phenomenon but is reflected in almost every first world economy.

If nothing changes, then a possible outcome a generation from now will be the disappearance of the surveying profession as it has been defined for the last two centuries, and its replacement by an amalgam of geospatial professions and technologies.

That’s one extreme scenario.

The other extreme is that governments value surveying so highly that they will regulate to protect it, possibly by restricting emerging geospatial industries.

In my opinion, both these extreme scenarios are unlikely, and we’ll end up with something in between the two.

How favourable or unfavourable that “something” is to the future of surveyors and surveying depends on the actions of current surveyors and their representative organisations, right now.

How well can you position yourselves, your colleagues and your industry in the estimation and understanding of the community, the end users of your products, and Governments?  That will tell the tale of the tape.

As I have said in a few forums, our industry, in shaping the data that defines the where in Australia, often neglects to define the vital importance of your role as the professionals delivering that data.

That’s why, a year ago, the leadership of SSSI came together to outline a vision and a way forward for SSSI towards 2021.

That’s why we’re working with other representative organisations and their leaders, like ISNSW and Tony Proust, to ensure the voice of surveying is heard and its needs reflected in government decision-making.

That’s why we will soon launch our first public policy document outlining these priorities.

And it’s why we will undertake the largest advocacy program in SSSI’s history after the Federal election.


Peter Olah
Chief Executive Officer
Surveying & Spatial Sciences Institute (SSSI)

Telephone:  +61 7 3367 0262
 Address:  3/18 Kilroe St, Milton QLD 4064  |