Launching the 2020 Space Census

by Joseph Dudley

In September last year, Heidi and I stood on the stage at the UK Space Conference and announced the launch of the Space Skills Alliance.

We talked about the reasons we were creating this new organisation, and chief among them was that we wanted to ensure that the sector had the data it needed to make strategic decisions about skills shortages. Anecdotal evidence is a good starting point, but it can be clouded by our own biases. We need a higher quality of data to base policy on.

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.

Our presentation at the 2019 UK Space Conference

Today, just over a year later, I am delighted to say that we are well on the road to getting that data. We are launching the 2020 Space Census, which will, for the first time, establish the demographic make-up of UK space sector employees across industry, universities and government organisations.

The Space Skills Alliance is conducting this census with the Space Growth Partnership, and in collaboration with the UK Space Agency, UKspace, and many other organisations, with generous support from the University of Leicester. We’d like your help too.

We already know from our own experiences, and from data about similar sectors like tech and engineering, that the space sector has some work to do to address diversity and inclusion problems, particularly around gender and ethnicity. But this evidence is limited, and without a good baseline it’s hard to determine what interventions should be made, to measure if these are having any effect, and to identify which are the most effective. The data we collect in this Census will change that.

The results will inform national space policy and sector strategy, feeding into the Space Sector Council and the UK Space Agency. They’ll be used by us and by others to improve what it’s like to work in the sector, tackle discrimination, and make the industry more attractive to new recruits.

The Census opens today, coinciding with World Space Week, and will be open to the end of the year. We ask about who you are, how you ended up in space, and what challenges you’ve faced. It’s totally anonymous, all the questions are optional, and it takes about 10 minutes to complete.

Please fill in it, and share it with your colleagues and friends in the industry. We want to make sure that we get responses from every corner of the sector from systems engineers to biomedical researchers, astrophysicists to lawyers.

The more people who complete it, the better understanding we get of the sector, and the more we can target action to make space a better place to work.

Complete the Census

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