Analysts are concerned that a lack of skilled labor in the space industry “could impact aerospace’s growth in recent years, putting key projects on hold or preventing space startups from gaining traction,” reports ExtremeTech. From the report:

According to the Space Foundation’s annual Space Report, job opportunities within the U.S. space industry have grown 18% over the past five years. Meanwhile, American colleges saw a decline in engineering students across the same period, prompting the industry to wonder whether the workforce could keep up with demand. Indeed, the Space Foundation says only 17% of NASA’s workforce is under 35; not only does the agency tend to hire workers who have accumulated a lot of experience, but there aren’t as many young professionals under consideration as there could be.

The industry isn’t just short on engineers, though. Although STEM degrees requiring an intimate familiarity with astronomy, physics, robotics, computing, mathematics, and other technical topics are certainly one path toward space, the industry relies on workers proficient in a much wider range of skills. Welders, electricians, crane operators, and other blue-collar workers are essential to manufacturing and ground operations. In contrast, marketers, PR representatives, bookkeepers, lawyers, and other office workers keep things running in the background. In fact, as of writing, SpaceX is even hiring a barista.

As Space Foundation CEO Tom Zelibor put it in the nonprofit’s Q1 2023 report, the space industry might benefit from informing the public of the benefits of space exploration. These benefits are apparent to some, but others find space exploration nonessential or frivolous. Other people interested in the space industry might be scared off from pursuing it as a career, thanks to its reputation for requiring advanced degrees and mathematical prowess. From the Space Foundation’s own educational projects to those run by The Planetary Society and Space for Humanity, public outreach could be the key to bolstering industry engagement.

The report notes that the “space economy” has ballooned to $464 billion (up 159% from 2010) and is predicted to reach a $1 trillion valuation by 2030, according to some analysts.

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