THE NEXT SURVEYORS? (AKA Steve Hates Kids)
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Posted by: Steven P. Douty, L.S.
I hate kids.
Allow me to clarify that statement. I hate kids being around when I’m trying to survey. Of course, as a land surveyor for more than 50 years, I have come to hate a lot of things.
I hate ticks and fleas. I hate thorns of all kinds. I hate when someone plants a rose bush right on top of a corner monument. I hate fence lines that have become grown over by bushes, briars and vines. I hate traffic, barking dogs and any domesticated animal that wants to knock over my equipment. I hate clients that insist on standing beside me while I’m working. I hate summer and winter; there should be a rule that no one asks for a survey unless it is mid-fall or mid-spring. I hate kids. Oh, I’ve already mentioned that.
However, I was recently confronted by an incident that has forced me to look at kids in a new perspective. I still don’t like kids playing around me when I’m working, but it seems the little rugrats may have some value beyond giving proud parents and grandparents something to brag about to neighbors.
In case you missed it, I’ve been in this profession for a very long time; my suspicion is a majority reading this have also been shuffling along grown-over boundary lines for a great many years as well. And that’s the point: look around you and you are bound to notice most of the participants in our profession aren’t getting any younger. Some are even making the dire prediction that the bugle is playing taps for our profession.
Call it a noble effort to assist in guiding our profession into the future, or some selfish desire to leave behind some kind of lasting legacy – heck, maybe I just don’t want to admit I’ve become an old fogey. Whatever the reason, several years ago I began participating in the dreaded exercise of speaking to school children on career day. (I forgot to add that to my list of things I hate.) Once or twice a year I would take a shower and dress up, go to a local school, and stand before a classroom of barely awake kids and try to make the concepts of setting a backsight and turning angles sound exciting. To my credit, I never allowed whatever fuzzy motivation I had for making the presentation get in the way of my cynical conviction the experience was just wasted time – for myself and the kids.
Turns out my cynicism might have been wrong. (Add that to the list, too – I hate having to admit I was wrong about something.)
At lunch recently, a very nice young waitress came to my table and surprised me by gushing over the fact she remembered me talking about surveying to her middle school class when she was a youth, about how much she enjoyed that presentation, even that she had once considered surveying as a career choice, and is now studying in a related field. I stumbled through pleasantries (regrettably, I didn’t remember her, but wasn’t about to admit so), and wished her the best. As I left the restaurant, I wondered – was the young lady just trying to get a good tip, or had surveying actually made an impression on her, and maybe even her classmates? Was it even possible I had inspired some other youth along the way to join the ranks of surveyors?
Although I am not one of those sounding the trumpet of doom for our profession, the facts are clear – our profession is growing older and the number of new entrants in the field is dwindling. The combination of changing technology and economic factors are threatening the vitality of new blood in the business.
The chance meeting of that young waitress, however, lends hope for the future, even if the changes are hard to see from day-to-day right now. Our profession is beginning the long, often frustratingly vague, effort of nurturing a new generation of surveyors, under the guise of workforce training and development. If you haven’t already heard the term being tossed about, you surely will in the months and years to come, and I encourage those of us still poking around beneath that rose bush or pulling ticks off us at the end of the day to pay attention to the discussion and ideas that will spring forth from workforce development efforts. If nothing else, don’t disparage the call to appear at a school career day – what you say or demonstrate that day may make more of an impression than you think.