New report part-funded by University of Leicester finds half of space workforce joins by age 25
The Space Skills Alliance has published the first report on how and why people join the UK space sector, based on a census of the space sector funded by the University of Leicester.
Most people join the space sector at the start of their career, with around half (47%) joining as new graduates and over three-quarters (77%) having joined by the age of 35.
The results show that a love of space and a desire for interesting work are the two main motivators for pursuing a career in the space sector, accounting for 86% of respondents.
People who like space tend to join the sector at a younger age, with 63% having joined by age 25. In contrast, those who are drawn to interesting problems tend to join later, with only 38% joining by the age of 25.
The report is the fourth in a series of reports analysing the results of the 2020 Space Census, which surveyed more than 1500 people across industry, academia, government, military, and non-profit organisations.
Interest in space comes from a range of sources, including educational settings like science festivals (43%), schools (24%), and museums (24%), as well as media like books (36%), TV (30%) and the internet (17%).
Surprisingly, school outreach has a more limited impact, with only 5% of respondents citing it as a key source of inspiration, despite being the focus of a lot of space education and skills strategies.
The findings offer insight into the drivers for recruitment and how people enter the industry, providing key information for national policy and sector strategy. The full report is available to access at spaceskills.org/census-routes.
Professor Nigel Bannister, of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester, said:
“There are many talented young people for whom the traditional university degree pathway into the sector is unattractive or unattainable. They have the enthusiasm and potential to become valued team members, but are lost from the pipeline because of barriers to entry.
“Since its formation in 2019, the Space Skills Alliance has been instrumental in helping the UK’s space employers identify and understand the challenges faced in recruiting the skills they need to grow, ensuring that the UK is an increasingly important player in the international space sector - while highlighting important questions surrounding equality of opportunity for people seeking to secure a career in the industry. This latest research illustrates the importance of early career recruitment for the sector, and the need to ensure there are career paths that allow people from all backgrounds to achieve their goal of working in the space industry.”
Dr Paul Bate, Chief Executive at the UK Space Agency, said:
“Space has an incredible power to inspire and the UK Space Agency is committed to encouraging people to learn more about space and consider taking up STEM learning, so that we can ensure a pipeline of skilled and creative professionals who will help our sector grow.
“We are investing £20 million over the next two years in educational and skills activities – including our Space to Learn programme, which aims to achieve over 10 million hours of interactions with young people by 2025. This valuable survey data helps give us a clearer picture of where we can channel our efforts to make sure people across the UK have equal access to space opportunities, whatever stage they are at in their education or career.”
Dr Heidi Thiemann, Director of the Space Skills Alliance, said:
“This is the first report to delve into what inspires people in the UK to join the space sector, but it also provides an insight on the actions we can take to improve the pipeline. We were fascinated to find two distinct groups - people who joined the sector because they like space and people who joined because they like solving interesting problems. This has implications for how the sector designs recruitment so that we can create pathways for everyone.”
The Census was carried out between October and December 2020 and was funded by the University of Leicester. This latest report on 'How and why people join the UK space sector' was funded by the UK Space Agency.
The report was funded by the UK Space Agency and Satellite Applications Catapult, the 2020 Space Census was funded by the University of Leicester, and resources and support for the research was provided by the Space Growth Partnership, UK Space Agency, and UKspace.