I was asked to write an article about the Certified Survey Technician Assistance Program, but there is a story to be told. It cannot be summated as just an Assistance Program, but an evolution of a vision created by surveyors for surveyors.
You may as well ask who I am. I am just the field guy who was just going to hold this rod until I get my “Real” Job. Thing is I fell in love with the profession and am just as passionate as when I first started. I would not have had this fire ignited without great mentors, teachers and friends.
Being a member of The Great Central Florida Chapter of the Florida Surveying and Mapping Society (CFCFSMS) and their support of the National Society of Professional Surveyors Certified Survey Technician (CST) program is the driving force for the creation of the CST Assistance Program.
Their support was championed within the chapter through Joe Stokes, Celeste VanGelder and Southeastern Surveying & Mapping. An established coordination of events occurred at this point: We would conduct “Study Groups” hosted by SSMC and taught by various surveyors in support of the program. Ms. VanGelder coordinated the CST for the Central Florida Chapter and Mr. Stokes instilled the value of education within the City of Orlando.
I recall being asked to help with the program, because I was a Certified Survey Technician. I asked what they needed me to do and after coordinating with Celeste I was invited to Southeastern Surveying & Mapping training area. The room could seat 50 comfortably and was equipped with projectors and dry erase boards, and I was given free reign over the copier. I arrived an hour early to prepare… I made copies of handouts and was told to make myself at home. The area wasn’t nearly as intimidating as when the participants and members/non-members of CFCFSMS arrived from, all over Central Florida. Why? To work towards a CST certification. I was greeted by grizzled old party chiefs, one in particular I remember keenly, who said “I have surveyed for 25 years, and my boss sends me here for this.” I just replied I am just here to help and couldn’t but help think “this guy has been surveying for 25 years, I was two years old when he started, what did I just get myself into?” I had realized a sense of reluctance to participate in the program from just a few participants, but as the sessions progressed we found that we could all learn from each other and together. Every company, every municipality, every agency here together to learn. I start off every eight to twelve week session with the same first class, you get out what you put into the program and this education/certification is something no one can take away from you (so many had lost so much in the economic crash.)… It seemed befitting.
When the economy crashed surveyors were out of work, but we still held sessions for the unemployed and employed. These guys would do just that, put in everything but struggled monetarily. There was something that troubled me. While some companies would pay for the certifications others were reluctant and/or could not afford it. We already had the Gerald O. McNair scholarship at the chapter, but it was for a four year degree and not everyone aspires for that type of education. What could I do to help out surveyors, my peers, the profession and companies in central Florida who genuinely cannot afford to support the program in this economy? Some of these guys had participated in two to three, eight to twelve week sessions, but could not afford to take the test. Then it hit me an Assistance Program or Scholarship for those surveyors whose companies could not afford to support the program and for the candidate committed to obtaining their CST certificate. The dedicated were in front of me and all we needed was a means of support and funding.
It was time to call in the Big Guns… The Great Central Florida Chapter of the Florida Surveying & Mapping Society and its Champions for Education. I proposed my idea and it was instantly approved and funded, this is what it was all about. We support the CST program as far west as Tampa, throughout Central Florida, and to the surveyor conferences throughout the state. The study groups are unique to our chapter and we have a team who can proctor anywhere, anytime, and with or without local support. The chapter is a place where people come together for the betterment of the profession, volunteers in a volunteer organization.
We still hold study groups with guest speakers: Surveyors, engineers, GIS professionals, utility designators, geotechs, and environmentalists coming together to learn. Six years later and that grizzled old party chief now helps teach a class every session. 6000+ copies later, a training room to be proud of and not a sign of slowing down. A six week study group once or twice a year has turned to eight to twelve week sessions two to three times a year. There are 1595 active CST’s in the nation and Florida comprises approximately 15% of those. Having a CST Certification shows qualification, personal investment of time and carries the reputation of the National Society of Professional Surveyors and Mappers. My wish is that this Assistance Program and the study groups can take effect in other chapters throughout the District, the state and the nation. You really do get out what you put in, sometimes more.
—Ronnie Figueroa — MBA/CST