Demand for professionals in geospatial technologies is exploding as Australia faces a critical shortage of graduates, a leading UNSW researcher has warned.

Professor Chris Rizos, head of the UNSW School of Surveying and Spatial Information Systems (SSIS), said technologies such as GPS, airborne & terrestrial laser scanning, satellites and 3D imaging are now in huge demand but numbers of qualified professionals were dangerously low.

"Technology has revolutionised the world of surveying and spatial information in general but we can no longer meet the needs of industry and government," Professor Rizos said.

"A recent US survey suggested that people with these skills are now required across 146 of the fastest growing occupations.

"The number of sectors using geospatial skills is mind-boggling, including satellite systems, agriculture, climate, disaster response, urban planning, car satnav (satellite navigation) and mobile devices, telecommunications, environment, mining, manufacturing, construction and global security.

"Australia's pool of surveyors is also ageing, with only 20 per cent of the profession being in their twenties, the lowest proportion ever."

Professor Rizos said the number of spatial information professionals able to handle the new hi-tech world of geoinformation technology was also not growing enough to meet the demand of companies such as Google and Microsoft, or industries concerned with environmental monitoring, climate change adaptation, security and disaster response.

He said new graduates were needed urgently but Australia's geospatial schools were struggling to attract students.

"And that is a real crisis for both our economy and higher education," he said.

Professor Rizos spoke at the opening of the world congress of the International Federation of Surveyors (FIG) in Sydney this week.

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