We have liftoff!

by Joseph Dudley

We’re excited to be launching the Space Skills Alliance today at the UK Space Conference. It’s an initiative Heidi and I have increasingly seen the need for, and we’re delighted to share it with the world today.

This is a pivotal time for the UK space sector

We are at the beginning of a new space race. The sector is vibrant and growing fast – far faster than the rest of the economy, with new companies entering the market practically every day, space a strategic government priority, and domestic launch capabilities on the horizon.

But at the same time, there is uncertainty as Brexit imperils our trade with Europe, trans-national programmes like Galileo, and the free flow of talent across borders.

If, in the face of this uncertainty, the sector is to hit its goal of having 10% of the global market share by 2030, it will need careful strategy, and crucially, a lot of highly skilled people.

We are facing a skills shortage

More than two thirds of space sector organisations say that they will be hiring over the next 3 years, but already, 40% say that recruitment is a major barrier to their growth, and this problem will only grow as international recruitment becomes more challenging.

In particular the sector is missing mid-career professionals because many graduates and entry-level professionals leave the sector after only a few years, and there are few resources for career changers interested in transferring into the sector, or for those returning to the sector after a break.

We’re also missing large swathes of the population who are put off by the sector’s lack of diversity. The data is pretty scarce at the moment – something we want to change – but the few stats that we do have show that not enough is being done to make the sector inclusive, and it’s losing skilled professionals as a result.

This is particularly significant because the UK’s space sector isn’t just competing with the global space sector, it’s also competing with the tech sector, the finance sector, and the consulting sector. And these sectors are not hanging about. Visit any university campus, look at any list of the top employers for physicists, for engineers, for data scientists, and you will find the Facebooks, the Googles, the Credit Suisses, the Deloittes of the world recruiting hard. They offer top salaries and high profiles, and they are winning the war for talent.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Those sectors are on top for a reason, and that reason is that they have invested heavily in their skills pipelines. The tech sector in particular is setting up bootcamps and training programmes left right and centre.

The space sector can do the same, but first it needs data.

We are missing key data for decision making

At the moment, we know very little about the space workforce and the sector’s skills needs.

We don’t have enough data on where the skills shortages are.

We don’t have enough data on why people join our sector, or why they leave.

We don’t have enough data on how people are progressing their careers, or how we can help them.

These are only a few of the gaps in our knowledge. Gaps that need to be filled, and fast.

Heidi and Joseph speaking at the UK Space Conference 2019
Our talk at the UK Space Conference 2019

We have a unique opportunity to address this

The UK’s space sector is still small, and it is already underpinned by close collaboration, so there is an exciting opportunity available to avoid the mistakes that the tech sector made, and to become leaders in this area.

The space sector could become known for having the best recruiting practices and the best career progression of any sector, but to achieve that, we need to understand the problem it’s facing. We need an evidence base to inform collective decision making, and to build a robust skills pipeline for growth.

Powerful collaboration

Every organisation in the sector has a few pieces of the puzzle, and if we take this opportunity and we work together to bring those bits of data together, then we can all reap the rewards. What we need, is an alliance.

That’s what the Space Skills Alliance is all about. We are a new think-tank and backbone organisation working to ensure that the sector’s growth is not constrained by a lack of access to talent.

The Alliance will do three main things:

  1. We will build an evidence base of data, research, and analysis on the state of the skills pipeline to identify issues in current approaches, and to inform decisionā€making across the sector.
  2. We will promote and advise on best practice in recruitment, training, and inclusion, drawing from our sector and from other relevant sectors to make space careers as attractive and rewarding as possible.
  3. We will build a powerful coalition of stakeholders from across the sector, to share data, collaborate, and learn from each other.

We invite everyone in the sector to join us. We offer priority access to our research and advice, as well as opportunities to contribute to the development of sector standards, and to showcase your organisation’s leadership in recruitment and career development.

Our aim is that your organisation and the whole sector will benefit from a bigger pool of higher quality candidates who stay for longer, enjoy their jobs more, and are truly representative of our society.

Join us to make this a reality.

Join us

Name of citation