The rapid growth of location-based applications and services has increased demand for technicians with skills in the acquisition and analysis of spatial data. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment in geospatial technology is expected to increase 35 percent by 2020.

To help meet this demand, a partnership consisting of four Virginia community colleges, the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, and the Virginia Geospatial Extension Program, which is based in the college, has been awarded an $899,870 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support community colleges in their efforts to educate and train geospatial technicians.

The Expanding Geospatial Technician Education Through Virginia’s Community Colleges project, known as GeoTEd, is a three-year effort that will continue a statewide partnership to establish academic pathways and train faculty to use geospatial technologies such as geographic information systems, global positioning systems, and remote sensing.

“The geospatial industry is causing a social and economic transformation that is impacting almost every sector of society,” explained John McGee, associate professor and geospatial Extension specialist.

Virginia Tech will host the regional Geospatial Technology Institute, providing hands-on training to 25 faculty members from community colleges in Virginia and surrounding states. Participating faculty will attend two one-week sessions over two years and receive mentoring and follow-up support from project partners.

Other components of the project include developing distance education courses in geospatial technology, mobile applications, the Virginia Community College Geospatial Portal website, and career awareness information. The Virginia Space Grant Consortium’s GEOTREK12 program will also provide professional development to 45 high school teachers from the service regions of the partnering community colleges.

“Virginia’s geospatial industry has long been considered one of the nation’s most vibrant, and the demand for geospatially literate employees continues to grow,” said McGee. “This project engages stakeholders from many different sectors to ensure that the region is well poised to support the geospatial technology workforce demand of the future.”