Coastal Environments Interactive Symposium on Developments in Operational and Research Coastal Oceanography and Meteorology


Human Resource Needs for Coastal Oceanography: A Small Business Perspective

Craig Swanson, Applied Sciences Associates, Narragansett, RI

Applied Science Associates, Inc. (ASA) is a small business specializing in the development and use of computer tools to simulate marine and freshwater processes related to environmental analyses. Our specialization requires that our staff be educated in science or engineering, usually at an advanced degree level, in an appropriate field such as physical or biological oceanography, ocean or environmental engineering. Important skills include an understanding of the underlying scientific principles, and most importantly, the ability to apply that understanding to developing and using computer models to assess environmental effects.

We view the environmental consulting business as challenging and exciting but schedule and project driven. This reality means that employees must be comfortable in an environment that may have significantly more pressure to produce results on time and within budget than the academic environment in which they were trained. Responsibility for multiple projects running simultaneously is also the norm rather than the exception.

To be successful in the small business industry, typical of many environmental firms, requires that employees be self-starters, taking initiative to conceptualize problems and solutions. Successful individuals usually possess this type of personality naturally and it is not usually a learned skill.

ASA provides both products and services, including the sale of software (HYDROMAP, WQMAP, COASTMAP, OILMAP, SIMAP) that utilizes PC-based simulation models integrated with a graphical user interface, and services that use the software for particular client needs. Communication with clients is an important part of our projects and requires that employees have appropriate writing and verbal skills. The lack of these skills, particularly among those employees with English as a second language, is a significant problem for both ASA and the individual in career advancement. Proficiency in English should be a graduation requirement for any English speaking educational institution.

Equally important, however, are the multilingual skills of many scientists and engineers. ASA has found that, for those foreign nationals so inclined, an excellent career path is working on foreign projects, either in the U.S. or back in their respective homelands. ASA has successfully established offices around the world using foreign nationals, a high percentage of which have been trained in the U.S.

ASA foresees growth in both the U.S. and world markets for a number of reasons. First, environmental problems do not respect political boundaries. Second, international funding agencies are moving toward increased environmental awareness of the impacts of their projects. Third, many developing nations are moving toward the adoption of developed nations’ environmental laws and regulations. All these factors tend to help create an expanding market for ASA’s products and services and therefore for ASA to hire and retain employees to serve these markets.

Session 7, Human Resource Needs, Including Education and Training: Employers' Perspective—Industry
Tuesday, 11 February 2003, 3:45 PM-4:15 PM

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