In every developed country, mapping plays an integral role in social organisation. Education, transportation, emergency services and recreational facilities are just a handful of areas reliant on sophisticated mapping projects for their success.
Established in 1965 to facilitate skills and knowledge training in land surveying and mapping, the Survey and Mapping Office (SMO) Training School of the Lands Department has witnessed the structural results of Hong Kong's economic rollercoaster ride. "Back then, the main purpose of the training school was to instruct surveying and cartographic technicians for the government," says Lam Hok-lam, senior land surveyor/training, Survey and Mapping Office Training School, Survey and Mapping Office, Lands Department. "Today, we are a resource centre overseeing the learning of staff to meet departmental needs. There are also specific training programmes for other government departments.
Responding to rapid technological advances and changes in Hong Kong living conditions, the Survey and Mapping Office holds such key responsibilities as establishing and maintaining a geodetic network, providing land boundary (cadastral) surveys, conducting photogrammetric and air surveys, offering cartographic and reprographic services, maintaining a computerised land information system, producing and revising maps and plans and assisting the Land Survey Authority in administering the Land Survey Ordinance (Cap 473).
For such an impressive portfolio of work, the SMO Training School's instructional capabilities cover two major areas: tailored vocational training and CSTDI (Civil Service Training and Development Institute) programmes.
The former encompasses surveying, cartographic and GIS (geographic information system) related courses; and general management such as EQMS (environmental quality management system) internal auditing for ISO certification, customer service and six sigma. The CSTDI programme on the other hand includes national studies, basic law, resources management, supervisory skills, financial management, communications, as well as IT and Chinese language skills.
Sourcing timely external programmes in subjects like surveying, cartography, GIS, language, management, microcomputer software, and occupational safety and health also form part of the SMO Training School's responsibilities.
Staff are granted access to a wealth of knowledge at the school's library where a collection of books and journals related to surveying, cartography, GIS and management, and a compilation of APC (assessment of professional competence) reports of the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors / Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors are available.
As a continuous endeavour to meet the department as well as the wider profession's knowledge needs, an annual survey is conducted to encourage and collect feedback and suggestions from all staff. Any supplementary requests for training programmes are reviewed on a needs basis and resources are then allocated for the most appropriate programmes, which in some cases are subject to customisation.
To ensure staff are equipped with the requisite skills as they progress and take on increased responsibilities, an array of core competence training programmes is also in place. Taking an active role in building a concrete workforce for the industry, the SMO Training School also organises technical seminars. A range of job-related training courses including OSH (occupational safety, and health) programmes, construction safety training and first aid courses are constantly arranged for field staff.
It is the government's policy to provide training opportunities for graduates of various professional disciplines, helping to pave the way to the acquisition of professional qualifications. The SMO Training School helps young land surveying graduates fulfil the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors' training requirements by offering them a specially designed two-year land surveying graduate training scheme. "Graduates with academic qualifications must undergo two years of training within which they should submit an APC report," Mr Lam explains.
Under the graduate training scheme, participants are assigned to a district survey office and an engineering office or specialist division like the geodetic survey section. They are required to perform a variety of functions under the supervision of a land surveyor, compose journals and work reports; and pick up specialist knowledge and practical skills progressively. Mr Lam notes that it is important for fresh graduates to seize the opportunity to develop management acumen and analytical thinking, acquire interpersonal and organisational skills and understand professional ethics. "Having the leadership potential, motivation and initiative is also key," Mr Lam concludes.