Jamaica, 3 December 2006 – As part of its observance of GIS Week, the National Land Agency (NLA) Jamaica hosted high school students last month at an “open day”, held at the Surveys and Mapping Division on Charles Street in downtown Kingston. The students were given an opportunity to view cartographic implements and the GIS operations at the agency.
Public Relations Officer at the NLA Adrienne Mullings said the open day was organised to expose students to the importance of GIS in Jamaica’s development as well as expose them to the many career opportunities in the field. “The NLA, as a prominent GIS agency, was chosen as the agency for students to learn how GIS is applied, to raise awareness,” she said.
Mullings explained that fewer youngsters were showing interest in Geography as a career choice and the NLA was on a new thrust to increase involvement through fostering an awareness of GIS and its various areas of application.
“The interest in Geography is waning. A lot of people are not aware of the areas that Geography branches off into,” said sixth form Geography teacher at Kingston College, Ivilyn Williams. She added that in the world of work, many administrators tended to put job applications with such qualifications aside for more popular ones, such as management and accounting.
Meanwhile, sixth form Geography teacher at Morant Bay High School, Bernadine Benjie, said that the open day would help to make Jamaican students more aware of the wide range of career choices one has with qualifications in Geography. “Most of my students, when asked about careers in geography, they tend to be thinking about meteorology, piloting or teaching. They really don’t know the different avenues that they can go in as it relates to geography,” she said.
Supervisor for Map Automation in the NLA’s GIS Unit, Prudence Shakespeare said that it was not a lack of prospects that prevented more Jamaicans from opting for Geography-related careers. Instead, she said it was a lack of awareness of opportunities in the area.
“It boils down to what they are aware of. They are more into the sciences and being doctors, because they know of the job opportunities and the salary range, but as it relates to GIS, which is a new specialty area, they are not informed as to where Geography can bring them and what it incorporates,” she said.
The supervisor explained that active steps were being taken to liaise with the Land Information Council of Jamaica (LICJ), which operates out of the Cabinet Office, to increase public awareness of GIS, and this was the main aim of GIS Week each year.