NGA Likely To Face Shortages in Key Skills, Report Says

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) should prepare for a shortage of well-trained job candidates in disciplines including cartography, according to a study released Jan. 25 by the National Research Council.

Researchers found that the number of qualified college graduates and experienced workers currently meets the NGA’s employment needs in most fields. But in others, such as cartography, photogrammetry and geodesy, candidate shortages “seem likely” in the future, the study said.

The report, “Future U.S. Workforce for Geospatial Intelligence,” examined work force projections for the geospatial industry and aimed to identify potential gaps in expertise for the agency.

Already, the market for some careers, such as geographic information systems analysts, is competitive, the report said.

To avoid shortages in emerging fields, the report suggested the agency keep an eye on graduates and experts from interdisciplinary backgrounds. NGA officials should also attend more college recruiting events and enhance the agency’s visibility to the public as a way to help improve its chances at finding qualified candidates.

“In NGA’s future workforce, which is likely to be more interdisciplinary and focused on emerging areas, the ideal skill set will include spatial thinking, scientific and computer literacy, mathematics and statistics, languages and world culture, and professional ethic,” the report reads.

The study also offers some reassurance to those who have long feared the graying of the work force in the U.S. aerospace and geospatial intelligence industries.

According to one table in the report, the number of degrees conferred in “highly relevant” fields to U.S. citizens increased more than 37 percent between 2000 and 2009. In 2000, universities conferred 156,871 degrees in those areas. That number climbed to 214,879 in 2009, the table showed.

The report also included data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing the average unemployment rate for aerospace engineers in 2007 was 0.6 percent. That figure jumped to 4.7 percent in 2010, the most recent year for which data was available.