Bethesda MD (SPX) Dec 01, 2009
It has come to our attention that there are literally hundreds of professional positions available in the space industry that cannot be filled. At a time when there are millions of people out of work due to the worldwide recession the space industry seems to be booming with projects, contracts and a variety of other activities that require space professionals with some experience in all levels of organization. So, where are these very essential people?
This simple answer is that there are not enough space professionals who have the training and experience needed to do the required work. All of the qualified people that we know are working, and they are working very hard, putting in long hours and making sacrifices to try and get the many funded space projects completed.
What is wrong with this industry? During the 1960s and 70s aerospace companies were notoriously poor employers. One day, thousands of people would be laid off and the next day thousands would be hired. Space professionals had to be mobile and expect to change jobs every two or three years.
They could expect to make good incomes, but not salaries attractive enough to compensate for job insecurity. This was symptomatic of the industry in the early decades of the Space Age. Unfortunately, this image persists and the industry still experiences ups and downs. Other industries are considered to be much more stable.
Consider those professionals who went into the financial and housing industries. They felt very comfortable about job security and they had well-paying positions.
All that ended last year. today, there are fewer college students studying finance, business and marketing and fewer job opportunities for graduates in these fields. However, throughout the last five decades, the majority of space professionals have consistently had well-paying jobs and still have such jobs.
Now that there are high levels of unemployment, where are those young, well-trained engineers and scientists that are so badly needed to build new space systems? They don't exist and we will not be able to fill all of those key positions for several years to come. These people must be attracted to universities that can educate them.
Then they must spend at least four years before receiving their degrees. This is followed by on-the-job training, until each is experienced enough to assume positions of responsibility. Thus, it is easy to see that current positions will not be filled for another five to ten years.
The average age of current space industry professionals has risen steadily since the days of Apollo. today, it is not unusual to see many positions filled with post-65 year old grandparents who have the experience and knowledge needed to compete in a very-competitive international space environment.
Unfortunately, while this situation offers many benefits for those people, it is a make-shift and temporary fix for the industry. The real problem is that the pipeline of future space engineers and innovators is empty. In a few years this may well result in a loss of space leadership. Warning signs are already evident, but no solution is in sight.
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