Life During and Beyond University - How to Get the Best Out of It - 13/03/2019

What do you call a group of surveyors? A herd? A gaggle? Or perhaps, a congress? Seldom do you find such a large group of geospatial professionals gathered than at Newcastle University’s professional awareness fair ‘Life During and Beyond Geomatics’ which takes place every October for students enrolled on the geomatics degree courses.

Now in its thirteenth year, the event has grown from just a handful of exhibitors, to an extensive array of 23 companies, ranging from traditional land surveyors to large construction firms, building consultancies, instrument manufacturers and data providers.

The event is designed to give undergraduates the opportunity to see first-hand, some of the roles that they may find themselves in during their time on the course, as well as post-graduation. It is both a testament to the course, and the event, that such a large number of the exhibitors, representing industry-leading firms, are alumni from the university.

A Student’s View

Tom Allan is a third-year student studying Surveying and Mapping Sciences at Newcastle University. Below, he describes his experiences with the Life During and Beyond Geomatics career fair and the valuable placement he gained at Malcolm Hollis, as a result.

The event is a cornerstone of the geomatics studies at Newcastle University. Each year, alongside regular exhibitors, students connect with industry players, all of which are keen to share the opportunities they have for budding students.

This provides students with a varied and comprehensive understanding of the types of firms operating within the geospatial industry and the roles available. During my time at Newcastle University, I have seen the event grow in size and popularity – showing the appetite for strengthening the link between academia and industry. Interestingly, the fair is also supported by an increasing number of Newcastle alumni, now working in many of the exhibiting firms.

On the day, students can ask potential employers about job roles, graduate schemes and placement opportunities. The outcome of which, is an improved understanding of the variety of jobs relevant to geomatics degree courses. This is vital for students unfamiliar with the diversity of opportunities available in the geospatial industry.

Students also see first-hand, the evolution of equipment and software from suppliers. Observing the development of new laser scanners, such as the Leica Pegasus Back Pack and Leica RTC 360 scanner. Companies such as Quest UAV and Plowman Craven are pioneers in technological assessment tools and present cutting-edge equipment; these tools benefit the industry directly by increasing the efficiency of data acquisition, and therefore project completion times. Not only are they an exciting change and development to current devices, but they also illustrate how new products are shaping the future of the geospatial industry.

Having developed an introductory understanding of the industry, students are left well placed to begin enquiring with exhibitors about real placement opportunities, laying the building blocks for a successful career in geomatics. Exhibitors offer a wide variety of placement opportunities, encouraging students to apply on the day or via formal correspondence later.

At the last event, I intended to scout the job opportunities and graduate schemes offered by exhibiters in relation to work sectors that I enjoyed. I particularly relished speaking with surveying consultancies and oil companies about the roles of geomatics in their industry.

After the event, I applied to a range of companies, including Malcolm Hughes and Malcolm Hollis, who are both highly respected in the industry. I was lucky enough to gain a three-month internship with Malcolm Hollis under the wing of Tom Pugh, a partner and head of their measured surveys service.

The experience I gained during my summer placement enhanced my knowledge of software programmes from AutoCAD to Cyclone. I also worked with multiple surveying tools, such as laser scanners, providing me with a better understanding of the geospatial industry, it’s diversity of jobs, and the application of my degree in the real world.

I have taken my learning back to my academic study where it is supporting my current research project which focuses on the improved measurement efficiency resulting from modern measurement tools. Knowledge, I feel, would have been hard to obtain without real-world experience.

I see this event as one of the most important and valuable aspects of my course. The ability to connect directly with the industry, learn about the opportunities out there and obtain relevant experience is brilliant and something that should be strived for by any course provider.

As the career fair grows in notoriety, so does its value to students. It perfectly illustrates the collective efforts of the industry and academia to provide positive career guidance for the next generation of geospatial professionals, supporting future job security and diversity in the industry.

The Employers Perspective

Tom Pugh, MRICS, is both an Alumni and Exhibitor and has experienced the evolution of the event over its lifetime, being one of the exhibitors of the first fair with Plowman Craven, to now exhibiting with Malcolm Hollis LLLP.

As an alumni from the course, I recognize the importance of passing on my experiences to the next generation of students. Regrettably, Newcastle University did not create this event until after I left. I therefore knew first-hand how difficult it can be to make connections within the industry without this type of resource. The real value to the students is that they can listen to like-minded individuals to get answers to burning questions like ‘what is it really like in the real world?’ and ‘what careers can I use my degree with?’

The key piece of advice I give to students is to speak to as many exhibitors as possible, gather a broad range of views, see who has summer placements available, and who has graduate opportunities at their firms. As someone who undertook a summer placement during my studies, I can vouch for the benefits of working for an extended period. Thus, putting into practice what I had learnt in lectures and practical sessions.

Students who are more interested in GIS can speak to the companies which specialise in this area. Similarly, if they have an interest in heading offshore, then the exhibitors can tell them what it is really like being confined to a boat for weeks on end and what kind of activity they will conduct whilst working there.

Obviously, from an employer’s point of view, we are looking to attract budding surveyors to apply and come to work at Malcolm Hollis. Over the four years that Malcolm Hollis has attended the event, we have had four summer placement students, with one converting into a full-time graduate employee. Toni Goldsmith joined the firm this year, having spent last summer on placement with us. Newcastle is one of the few places in the UK which offers an undergraduate degree programme for geomatics, and the calibre of students is always high.

Newcastle University’s work to create this professional awareness fair is of great benefit to the students undertaking geospatial degrees. It helps them familiarize themselves with key industry players, and vice versa. For Malcolm Hollis, we see it as a great opportunity to present our social values, wellbeing initiatives and the rewarding work that our employees are involved with. This is an event that we as a business will continue to support, with the aim of helping to inform the coming generations of geospatial professionals and provide them with valuable opportunities to begin careers in the commercial property industry.

This article was published in Geomatics World March/April 2019

Last updated: 17/01/2021