New Partnership creates highly skilled surveying technicians

Press Release Date: 

The construction community will reap long-term benefits from a new educational partnership among AGC, Blue Mountain Community College (BMCC), the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), and the City of Pendleton. The partnership has launched an innovative surveyor technician training program that places BMCC students into actual construction or public works projects managed by their client—the CTUIR or the City—and exposes them to state-of-the-art surveying equipment using a real-time kinematic global positioning system (RTK GPS). Mike Muller, BMCC’s civil engineering department head, says “This project’s goal is to train students in the use of RTK GPS equipment and to give them on-the-job experience to enhance both their employability and their job performance.”

Second-year surveying students are eligible to participate in the program and receive academic credit but no pay for their work. The students develop a contract document that defines the project’s scope, outcome, and deliverables for their client. To kick off the program, BMCC arranged three separate mapping projects with the CTUIR to be completed by the end of spring term 2011, with 14 students participating. Surveying instructor Bob English says that the program is excellent preparation for students. “From field data collection, to data download and manipulation in the office, these students are getting first-hand experience in real-life projects,” he says. 

With a combination of three $5,000 grants from AGC, the AGC Construction Management Education Council, and the CTUIR’s Wildhorse Foundation, plus $5,000 in college matching funds, BMCC purchased the equipment in April 2011. The equipment vendor, PPI/Topcon, offered BMCC a discounted “educational pricing” package that made the purchase possible within the limits of the accumulated funds.

The equipment arrived just as students were ready to conduct their field work. They experienced some initial rough spots in integrating the new technology with BMCC’s existing systems, but the glitches are being resolved.  “It’s been an educational experience trying to integrate all of the new technologies with the CAD software,” laughs student Don Roy. But the students recognize the advantages offered by the new equipment, as Jason Weller says, “The capability to collect hundreds of data points in a few hours that would have previously taken three days puts to shame what we were using before.”

Terry Warhol, CTUIR public works director, is enthusiastic about the program. “The Tribes have a great relationship with BMCC, and this program is just one example of our partnering. The students are able to gain ‘real world’ experience and do a great job for us. We are glad to have them working on the Reservation.”

Among Oregon’s 17 community colleges, only BMCC and Umpqua Community College train survey technicians.  BMCC’s program will help address a critical shortage of licensed land surveyors in Oregon over the next ten years. The state currently has 1,234 practicing licensed land surveyors (down from 2,500 in 1980), who average over 60 years of age. Between 2008 and 2018, the Oregon Employment Department has projected a 12.5 percent growth in jobs for surveyors and surveying/mapping technicians. “AGC is proud to partner with BMCC and local employers to create job-ready surveying technicians for the construction industry,” says Mike Salsgiver, executive director of the AGC Oregon Columbia Chapter.

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