Rowan Hallam: Building a solid foundation for the next generation of surveyors at Woods

My career in surveying began when my brother needed a survey assistant. I had studied to become an electrician but didn’t enjoy the work. So, I got a job as a survey assistant. Over the next three years, I gained experience in the field and became a surveyor before going back to university to pursue a Bachelor of Surveying to broaden my options within the industry.


Since then, I've worked on a diverse range of projects in many different areas. It is an interest in new technology that has led me to dabble in many areas in surveying over the years. These days, I am more responsible for the survey department, the client relationships, recruitment, and project management side of surveying. I'm also involved in training of younger surveyors who are coming through and educating school leavers about surveying as a career option.


Here’s how Woods’ is supporting the next generation of surveyors:

Encouraging surveying as a career path

At Woods, we recognize there is a real shortage of surveyors in the industry, especially licensed surveyors. Historically, surveying has been a subject not many understand, or no one knows what it is. Many people see surveying as just looking through something on a set of legs on the side of the road – but it is far more than that.

Many young people don't know what they want to do when they leave school, but we want to make surveying a known and attractive option as a career. It’s why we help at careers expos and visit schools to discuss surveying with guidance counsellors and students. We’ll also take along technology, equipment, videos and presentations to show students what surveying really involves; things like what drones are used for to make it a bit more exciting.

Recruiting and supporting graduates to become licensed surveyors

Woods has two main channels for recruiting and training future surveyors (outside of recruitment for experienced licensed surveyors).

Employment of school leavers who go on to study at Toi-Ohomai

We have employed multiple school leavers as survey assistants who go on to complete the Diploma in Surveying at Toi-Ohomai Institute of Technology while working for us part-time. Its an attractive option as class is limited to one day a fortnight so they can bring in a good income while studying.

We recognize the Toi-Ohomai diploma as a good qualification to support our young survey assistants to gain the theoretical knowledge to match their field experience, rather than just pushing a button on a piece of equipment.

Recruitment of Bachelor of Surveying graduates from Otago University

Woods has quite a close relationship with Survey School at Otago University. We present a lecture for one of the engineering surveying papers that is part of the curriculum. The university recognizes that Woods has a strong background in laser scanning and can show the students real-world applications of the different technologies and scanning processes. The students get quite a broad cross-section of real-world applications from multiple companies as part of the paper.


We also host an informal presentation on not only Woods in general but also industry career pathways post university as there are multiple options presented to survey graduates in their final year. We also hold a social event just to try and break down barriers to enable discussions to flow in a casual environment. It’s a chance for us to present ourselves, who we are, and a chance for students to ask any questions about Woods, the industry, or anything around the process of licensing and becoming a registered professional surveyor. We also take down a graduate from the previous year to share their experiences of the first year of the Woods graduate surveyor programme.


For the last few years, we've been recruiting between two and four graduates each year. When we are looking to recruit a graduate surveyor, we are generally looking for a cross range of skills; we don't just look for academic achievements or practical skills. One of the biggest things we are looking for is a personality that is going to fit in with our culture and be able to discuss things openly without being too guarded or too shielded.

Creating a solid foundation for the next generation of surveyors

Woods put all graduate surveyors through continuous professional development programme, consisting of a formal and informal learning. One of the advantages of recruiting graduates fresh out of university is that they are still in that learning phase, they just want to soak up more information.


Once they have become licensed cadastral surveyors (if they choose), they will have a well-rounded knowledge of the land development industry which allows them to continue in whatever direction they want. Whether they want to specialize in land development, engineering, surveying or planning, it allows them to choose and then Woods can provide that pathway for them. There are also pathways for those who choose not to become licensed.

We don’t hold people back in the industry

Once surveyors have their qualification and are licensed, the world is their oyster. They are highly sought after in the industry. If they’re passionate about something, we won't hold them back as long as it's a thought-out idea or thought-out process. When it comes to a different specialization within Woods or implementing new technology, as long as you can make a business case for it, Woods will support it. We’ve been able to demonstrate that in many areas we are currently working in. And it's not just in surveying, it is right across the company too.


We believe recruiting and training graduate surveyors helps us deliver better outcomes for clients, rather than competing for experienced surveyors in the industry and having people changing jobs all the time. By supporting the next generation of surveyors, we can help address the skills shortage in the industry. It also means we can train these young surveyors to follow our processes and methods which creates a more seamless experience for our clients.


Find out more about Career pathways at Woods here: https://www.woods.co.nz/careers/


For more on Surveying as a career option visit: https://www.surveyspatialnz.org/

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