Geographic Information Systems Open Up a World of Opportunity for Students

Technology Helps Students Discover Our World & Develop Highly In-Demand Skills

TORONTO – November 14, 2012 – Today marks GIS Day, which celebrates the many benefits of geographic information system (GIS) technology. This technology, which is used to integrate numerous layers of data and visualize them as maps, has revolutionized the analysis of local and global environmental, economic and social concerns. It also enables unprecedented levels of efficiency, not only in government and industry, but also in education. With GIS, schools from K-12 to higher education can foster critical thinking and spatial analysis skills among students to enhance their understanding of our world and improve their ability to address real-world challenges.

“Problem solving and spatial awareness are much needed skills in today’s workforce,” notes Alex Miller, president, Esri Canada. “GIS is now being used in every field, from government, business, health care, transportation, environmental management and social sciences. With geospatial visualization and analysis among today’s top technology trends, knowing how to use GIS provides students with an important advantage that broadens their career opportunities.” 

The Waterloo Collegiate Institute (WCI)in Ontario is a public secondary school that is preparing its students for success in geotechnology, one of the world’s fastest-growing technology sectors. The school offers a GeoTech program that focuses on teaching the science and technology of gathering, analyzing, sharing and using geographic information. All students are introduced to GIS as part of their Grade 9 geography course, where they use the technology in the school’s state-of-the-art geographic studies lab to analyze various community concerns such as land-use studies and urban renewal. They further develop their skills in Grades 11 and 12, where their geomatics courses cover the fundamentals of GIS, cartography, remote sensing and database management. 

“Geospatial technology is an essential element in our geography courses,” says Mark Menhennet, Department Head of Geography, WCI. “From tracking global migration patterns to analyzing mineral-rich geologic deposits and optimizing public transport routes, GIS is a valuable tool for geographic inquiry that prepares our students for successful post-secondary studies and careers in geography and related industries.”   

Graduates of the program enjoy preferential acceptance to the University of Waterloo’s Geography program and may be exempted from taking some of the required first-year geography courses. Many stay on at WCI for a fifth year to complete co-op placements in organizations including the Waterloo Regional Government, the City’s parks and recreation department, local universities and a number of high-tech companies. WCI graduates are highly regarded by employers for their spatial skills and have often received offers for summer and part-time employment. Several of them now have promising careers with regional and local governments, or have established their own geo-consulting practice. 

Kayla Strong is a WCI graduate currently taking up Geography at the University of Waterloo. In high school, she won first place at the annual Skills Canada – Ontario GIS Competition for determining the ideal landfill site in Waterloo Region. With a partner, she also won gold at the Waterloo Wellington Science Fair, where they identified areas in the Region at greatest risk of soil erosion and analyzed their correlation with flooding.  

For her internship, Kayla worked at the Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS), where she assisted crime analysts in using GIS and maintaining maps that tracked police activity in local neighbourhoods. Since her co-op placement, she has continued to work for the WRPS for two summers and part time during the year while in university. Of her experience, Kayla says: “I’m thrilled to be working for the police and feel fortunate that I can make such a contribution to my community. The most beneficial aspect of GIS is its versatility, as it can be applied to analyze any problem. It’s an extremely useful tool that assists in making informed decisions.”  

After completing her Geography degree, Kayla plans to pursue graduate studies in Human Geography and is also looking to enter a Police Foundations program. 

Learn more about how GIS is used in education at and explore careers in GIS.


About GIS Day

GIS Day provides an international forum for users of GIS technology to demonstrate real-world applications that are making a difference in our society. It is held in the third week of November each year. Thousands of organizations worldwide participate in this grassroots effort by hosting open houses, lectures, map galleries, games and other activities for people to learn about geography and the uses of GIS. For more information, visit:

About Esri Canada
Founded in 1984, Esri Canada provides enterprise geographic information system (GIS) solutions that empower businesses, governments and educational institutions to make timely, informed and mission-critical decisions by leveraging the power of geography.  The company distributes the world's leading GIS software from Esri, Telvent, Cityworks – Azteca Systems and other technology partners.  Headquartered in Toronto, the company serves over 10,000 customers from 16 regional offices across Canada and has been named as one of the Top 250 Canadian IT Companies and Top 25 IT Professional Services Providers in Canada by the Branham Group, as well as one of Computer Dealer News’ Top 100 IT Solution Providers in Canada.  Information about Esri Canada can be found at 

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