I have no experience with having an employee go through the CST program. While in college it was required of the students to take the CST exam, either level 1 or 2, whichever you felt more comfortable with. I took level 2 field, I believe, but never took it farther than that for a number of reasons.
I do however believe that it is a good way for young green employees to take the path of going through the CST program. We have one employee that we hired off of the street and he did not know a thing about surveying, getting him trained in the field wasn't horrible but the office side is still a work in progress. I may try to push him towards looking at the CST program in the future, which I had not thought of.
I also believe that the best route, may be very hard at times, is trying to get a student from Paul Smith's or Alfred. They have a very good foundation to build on and they usually do not have bad habits that can be hard to get rid of with people that have experience.
I know at the upcoming NYSAPLS conference there will be a seminar on the CST program, which could be worthwhile for young technicians.
When you start from scratch with the right person it's the best of the two options.
However someone with experience at least knows what the job entails and has made somewhat of a commitment to it as a career. You may go through a number of green candidates until you find one that "takes" to the job.
Go not to the elves for counsel, for they will say both yes and no
J. R. R. Tolkien
“Civilization is not an endless succession of inventions and discoveries, but the task of ensuring that certain things last.”
— Nicolás Gómez Dávila
I started at a larger company where hiring field hands green was part of the culture. I found field work relatively easy but understanding the bigger picture was a struggle, supplemental education like the CST program or online classes may have helped but what I think would have made the most impact is being involved in some level in the whole process, from research to final product in an incremental and regular way.
CST is fine as a measuring stick, probably for those who aren't on a path to get licensed. I'd like to see that someone took all three tests, not just #2 or #3.
That said, it's not a program, it's a set of tests. There aren't specific CST classes, just self-study and/or classes you take on your own.
A lot of states have organized classes, usually through their state or local surveyor's association. We had an in house program at one time but it kind of fell by the wayside.
I agree that one should start with the level one, then 2, then 3, which is what I did. They're all different, both from a difficulty standpoint and in what all they cover. Level 3 was no joke.
I have looked at companies who use CST certification as a way to evaluate knowledge levels and commitment. I worked for a company who offered a bonus for passing exams. I think that was a good motivator for people to learn and a valuable incentive to keep their nose to the grindstone. At that time I was doing DOT work and the CST exams were not really very pragmatic or oriented towards the work I was doing, but I felt like I extracted some value. Later, I was glad to receive a higher wage for having that notch on my belt. Some companies care and others don't. The one I worked for used CST certified crews in selling our firm when bidding big projests. The entire group of field guys I work with now don't have any degrees or certifications. If you asked any of them, they would scoff at stuff like this to hide insecurities. Majority of these types of guys don't have any ambition or aspirations. CST is not for Johnny Lunchpail who just wants to collect a paycheck and do the minimum.
In my opinion a totally green guy presented with the normal challenges of field work and the incentive to earn a raise or bonus for studying and passing CST exams could cultivate a solid employee if they embrace those challenges. I don't disagree though the best way to learn is just being on the job and trying to learn from experienced guys willing to share their knowledge and who impose & teach good habits.
By the way the applications aren't a joke. They're like a job application and you have to start out level one if you're brand new. 1.5 years is the basis for taking Level II, and that's when they differentiate between the field and office tracks. I have a Level II exam coming up in a month and the company will pay for the test. So I got that going for me, which is nice...(Carl Spackler voice.)