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Released July 28, 2003


HATTIESBURG - Through a long-term effort with NASA, The University of Southern Mississippi has received a $1.5 million grant from the Department of Labor to fund a pilot Geospatial Technology Apprenticeship Program (GTAP).

"The GTAP is a partnership between employers, education and economic development," said Dr. Cyndi Gaudet, director of the Geospatial Workforce Development Center (GeoWDC) at Southern Miss. The pilot program will operate under the direction of the GeoWDC.

"It involves on-the-job training at organizations that have geospatial workforces such as Lockheed-Martin, Veridian, Resource 21 or any of the companies involved in the Mississippi Enterprise for Technology at Stennis Space Center," Gaudet said.

In the program, participants will attend classes two nights a week while working full time for a company in the geospatial industry. The grant will help participants pay for tuition and help them connect their jobs to GTAP as they work toward a certificate, an associate's degree or additional certification.

The geospatial technology industry is an emerging high-growth sector of the U.S. economy expected to reach more than $21 billion in revenue over the next few years. Geospatial technologies include remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS).

Among the GTAP's other goals:

  • To build on outcomes of NASA's National Workforce Development Education and Training Initiative
  • To establish geospatial technology apprenticeship standards
  • To identify career paths for the geospatial workforce
  • To build the capacity of community colleges (especially Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and Pearl River Community College) to offer geospatial technology certificate and technician/technology programs
  • To provide a model for replication throughout the United States
  • To measure the return on GTAP's investment

"There is a need for people to have this capability beyond the standard, scientific community," said Dr. Marco Giardino, chief of the Applications Integration Division of the Earth Science Applications (ESA) Directorate at Stennis. "The geospatial capability is not just remote sensing, but is being adopted by numerous types of industries such as real estate, medicine and auto manufacturing."

Giardino added, "It's becoming a tool everybody's using, like the computer."

The grant confirms both ESA's confidence in Southern Miss' ability to create a model for geospatial training and the DOL's confidence in the program's value, Giardino said.

ESA Director Dr. David Powe said that NASA's role from the beginning was to develop the process that highlights the skills needed in the geospatial workforce. Long ago NASA began working to set up a competency model that surveyed geospatial companies in the United States, he said.

"We gained an understanding of the skills they needed, then identified the national standards for math, science, technology and geography education. Then we matched the skills to the education standards, which identified the gaps between education and the workforce," Powe said.

"We never intended to be a training or educational organization. We developed this model and are passing it off to the Department of Labor. That's where Southern Miss comes in."

Powe said there is an immediate need to fill thousands of positions in the geospatial industry, with more to come during the next 10 years. "We'll benefit as the soon as the program begins," he said.

For more information about the Geospatial Workforce Development Center or about the GTAP, call Heather Annulis at (601) 266-6827.



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August 18, 2003 4:40 PM