Geospatial information science and technology provides tools across trades for data collection

Sep 11, 2017
LMC's GIS program helps students learn skills in one of the nation's top three growth sectors.

By Kelsey Hammon of Leader Publications. Originally published Tuesday, September 5, 2017

From applications like Pokémon Go to surveying the most marketable spot for a new business, geospatial information science and technology is used in everyday life and across a broad spectrum of careers.

In Jay Keeler’s geospatial technology courses, students will learn 
how to gather and analyze data using commercial software and technology, including a drone and Trimble brand gear. In addition to being an instructor in computer information systems, Keeler is the lead faculty for applications development in GIS.

The courses are not just for those looking to become the latest technology wizards.

With GIST among the top three growth sectors in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Labor, those who get the gist of this technology will have the tools to gather and analyze potentially profit building, and in some instances, lifesaving information. Demand for the labor skills is also increasing at a rate of about 35 percent per year.

“I can’t imagine a discipline that does not use location based information,” Keeler said.  “[Demand] is going up that high, because so many industries are being transformed by this technology,”

Some example of careers that use the GIST skills include criminal justice, agriculture, emergency response and urban planning, to name just a few. And if that’s not a selling point, students enrolled have the opportunity to use state of the art equipment, not likely available to students on any community college campus.

“The college has been very generous in supply technology that no other school I have taught at buys or gives students access to,” Keeler said.

The college invested $50,000 in new technology features for the program. While students will not be piloting the $16,000 drone, because a license is required to do so, they will be analyzing data gathered from the machine. Students will also be assigned GPS and GIS technology to use in the field.

Four new classes are available to the program, including field methods, geodatabase design and web GIS, and GIS customization and programming. Students interested in the field can earn a certificate through the program after completing all required courses.

The market for the labor skills is growing at a rate of 35 percent a year, Keeler said.

“It’s going up that high because so many industries are being transformed by this technology,” Keeler said.

Armed with the latest GIST knowledge, Keeler said he sees LMC students in the program standing out from other job applicants.

“What I see students doing in an interview …  someone will say, ‘do you know how to use Trimble gear?’ and they will say, ‘hand me yours and I will configure it for you.’”

Keeler said there are three top reasons why students might take an interest in the program, one being its versatility, because it is applicable to a number of fields. Second, it may be a useful stepping stone to students who might not know what they want to study or those with an established career who want to have more skills. Lastly, the class is flexible for nontraditional students.

The class is available in three different modes, including traditional, real-time web interaction and online classes.

“It is whatever suits you any day of the week,” Keeler said. “We don’t lock you in to how you register.”

The only course not available in the digital format is the field course, where students must participate to gain the hands-on knowledge working with the equipment. A two-week summer course is available for the field.

The program is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and program leaders are currently working toward national geospatial information accreditation

Keeler’s background is in information technology. He worked for a number of automotive companies and contractors for 35 years. He also taught biology, geology and GIS courses for seven years at the University of Michigan and still teaches one course per week there.

For more information, visit LMC's website or contact Jay Keeler, at (269) 927-8772 or jkeeler@lakemichigancollege.edu