Space Technology is a $400b Workforce Development Opportunity

Space Technology is a $400b Workforce Development Opportunity

Today’s space industry is at an all-time record for growth and technology expansion, as the creative minds of the global space community are literally bringing the once impossible dreams of science fiction into tangible reality. It should not be a surprise that every life, infrastructure, and country depends on space-related technologies. But now, we are also increasingly dependent on businesses to create and produce the next great innovations and breakthroughs of space technology.

This year, the global space economy crossed the $400 billion mark for the first time with revenues of $414.75 billion. Commercial space activity fueled much of that growth, with the largest single-sector gain coming from value-added services, which posted a single-year 20.5percentincrease in revenues.

From farming, transportation, and, finance, to supply chain operations, national security operations, telecommunications, and more, space technology is all around us and expanding exponentially every day. The original inventors of many of these breakthroughs— the government and military services, are now joined by a far nimbler and more creative partner: the private sector and its entrepreneurs, who are all vested in pioneering new approaches for products, services, and operations, while driving down costs and expanding the customer pool, and workforce opportunities. The demand for space technology innovation that transfers to the betterment of life on earth knows no end.

With the barriers to entry for this once limited and elusive marketplace coming down, private investors are able to enter and expand on space opportunities like never before. In the Space Foundation’s recently issued, The Space Report 2019 Quarter Three, it details how the global commercial space activity reached $328.86 billion in 2018. As attractive as the private investments in these space technologies and applications might be, this growing marketplace is not without its challenges or threats.

Without a skilled, available, and adaptable workforce that can develop, commercialize, and apply space innovations to industries across the planet, the ongoing technological and economic promise will fall dramatically short. The warning signs are already flashing, especially as you look at the workforce shortage, skills deficit and innovation gap. Open jobs are exceeding the number of unemployed workers; an aging workforce is not easily replaced with today’s youth, and literally, hundreds of space technology patents sit idle waiting to be commercialized.

Beyond the traditional astronauts and rocket scientists that we think of when we speak about the space community, a limitless range of new opportunities have emerged. For STEM experts, this includes other in-demand positions that analyze data, develop software and code, manufacture sensors, and deploy and maintain satellites, and other terrestrial and orbital hardware.

Without A Skilled, Available, And Adaptable Workforce That Can Develop, Commercialize, And Apply Space Innovations To Industries Across The Planet, The Ongoing Technological And Economic Promise Will Fall Dramatically Short

For non-STEM professionals, it is important to ensure space careers are viewed as a place that every person can see their part and place in it—from laborers to administrators to project managers. The door is wide open; there is no better time to be a part of the space economy.

Yet the pathways to enter this dynamic workforce are still elusive to many. “The need for full engagement in STEM, by women and underrepresented groups, goes beyond enabling individuals to fulfill their dreams of becoming a scientist. Our economic future relies on what we do now to nurture the STEM talent that will be necessary to meet the demands of an increasingly technological and knowledge-based economy,” says US Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-NY), Chairwoman of the US House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

At the Space Foundation, we have a phrase, “No one goes to space alone,” meaning it takes multiple people, talents, and roles to succeed in space. Sustainability of the space economy cannot afford to be dependent on government agencies, as its sole source of funding and development. Instead, collaboration of government, private industry, and educational institutions is needed to transform K-20 and lifelong learning paradigms. Awareness and access to training, mentoring and networking are essential to capitalize on the space economy and prepare citizens, communities and nations to advance space technology for humankind.

Space policy is also essential to the advancement of space tech innovation through legislation that encourages and funds education, recruitment, and training. Historically, 2006 began the wave of market growth as it was the first performance year following the passage of the 2004 Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act; NASA contracted for the Crew Exploration Vehicle, and the first SpaceX contract was awarded. Today the Space Foundation educates government officials and policy makers from around the world about complex issues and the importance of skilled talent.

Aiming to bolster the space technology workforce, the Space Foundation looks to advance space education and space commerce pathways to fill space-based jobs and stimulate technology innovation. Over the past year, our space commerce online programs and workshops have touched more than 275 minority enterprises and connected them to the space industry through training and our global network.

While we are still years away from traveling to far off galaxies and deep space settlements, the rewards and dividends our space investments have delivered here on Earth for nearly 70 years have been life changing. As shareholders in the space economy, our future is dependent on space technology innovation, career development, and business ventures that will continue to expand and grow to every corner of the planet.

Weekly Brief

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