Conference Combines Location-Based Technologies With Student Preparation for Employment

Students, teachers and professionals from all walks of life are invited to take part in the OPENGATE Partnership Conference, to be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15, at the Central Arkansas Library in Little Rock. The conference is the latest in a series of events designed to increase awareness of the need for geospatial training for students entering or currently in the workforce.

This conference will provide opportunities to learn about and explore geospatial technologies, as well as network with other interested professionals.  

The conference is free and open to the public; visit opengate.cast.uark.edu/event/partnership-conference-2017 to register. A catered lunch for participants will be provided.

Opening Pathways to Employment through Nontraditional Geospatial Applications in Technical Education, or OPENGATE, is funded through the National Science Foundation as a collaboration between five partner institutions in the University of Arkansas system. The goal of the three-year project is to increase access to education in location-based technologies in order to prepare students for employment in a wide variety of industries.

Traditionally, the primary job market for professionals with strong geospatial backgrounds has been limited to large urban areas, but surveys among regional employers in Arkansas have shown an interest in increasing the number of employees with knowledge of location-based services in addition to their industry-specific expertise.

The integration of these additional skills will help to increase the efficiency, competitiveness, and sustainability of businesses and government in the rural heartland. To achieve this goal, four partner institutions — Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas, Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas, University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville, and University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton — are integrating location-based technologies into existing curricula, with the fifth partner, the University of Arkansas Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies, or CAST, serving as a technical resource.

As the first year of the OPENGATE project concludes, the Partnership Conference brings together stakeholders from government, industry, and education to review the progress of the project so far, and to chart the course ahead. Additionally, it offers an opportunity for interested industry personnel to see how geospatial technologies can be applied in their home fields to augment and enrich the quality of their work and their value as employees.

"This conference is our first step toward building a self-sustaining network of educators, industry professionals and users of location-based information to further economic development in Arkansas," said Robyn Lane, a GIS research and education specialist with CAST. "Spatial skill sets are increasingly in demand among employers, and we're excited that this project provides a means to extend relevant educational opportunities in geospatial technologies across Arkansas."

Registration for the conference will open at 9 a.m. and will be followed with a keynote address by Joe Bob Penor, a geospatial professional and Arkansas native. Penor is the host of the Everyday Geo podcast, which focuses on the way geospatial applications are used by real people in everyday situations. Afternoon breakout sessions will feature speakers from education, industry and research, and they will focus on the current status of geospatial technologies in the field and future directions.  

For more information about the OPENGATE Partnership Conference, or to find out how to get involved, visit the OPENGATE website at opengate.cast.uark.edu.

Contacts

Robyn Jo Lane, GIS education specialist
Center For Advanced Spatial Technologies
479-575-5639, rjlane@uark.edu

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