The Space Skills Alliance has today published the first report on how and why people join the UK space sector. 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 such as 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.
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 was funded by the UK Space Agency and Satellite Applications Catapult, and resources and support for the research were provided by the Space Growth Partnership, UK Space Agency, and UKspace.