Opening Pathways to Employment through Nontraditional Geospatial Applications in Technical Education (OPEN-GATE)
Opening Pathways to Employment through Nontraditional Geospatial Applications in Technical Education (OPEN-GATE) is a collaboration among four community colleges in the University of Arkansas system and the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville that will enable the development of a workforce with job-specific geospatial skills for local industry and government. Regional surveys have shown a strong interest among employers for employees with skills in location-based services and other geospatial technologies as well as their industry-specific skills. OPEN-GATE will develop geospatial technology skill sets in targeted business sectors and emerging industries by augmenting existing programs of study at the four two-year institutions with relevant and industry-specific geospatial applications. The project will leverage educational materials developed by the GeoTech Center, an NSF ATE-funded center, as well as online content already developed by the University of Arkansas. Traditionally, the primary job market for people with strong geospatial educations has been in large cities. The selected integration of these skills with industry-specific training will help increase efficiency, competitiveness, and sustainability of businesses and government in the rural heartland.
The growing demand for geospatial technicians across multiple domains illustrates the need for a workforce which understands and utilizes spatial thinking and analysis, at the same time that the rapid evolution and incorporation of geospatial technology into daily life demands a spatially literate community. The goals of the OPEN-GATE project are to increase adoption of geospatial technologies statewide and to expand access to education and training in geospatial technologies in support of industry and government, including transportation, oil and gas, local government, and others. Working together, the UA system partners will formalize agreements to develop a system-wide structure for shared degrees, technical certificates, and/or certificates of proficiency to clearly articulate multiple educational pathways. Employer Advisory Boards for each program of study, made up of industry representatives and local employers, will advise the development of educational curricula to insure that it meets industry needs and act as liaisons between industry and educators. Annual industry-education partnership conferences will facilitate ongoing interaction between industry, faculty, and students, while outreach to secondary school teachers and students will foster early awareness of geospatial technologies, shaping the future workforce and economic development of the region. By enhancing the capacity of educational institutions in the region, the project will expand opportunities for education and training to regions of the state that are currently unserved or underserved.