Encouraging Growth of the Entrepreneurial Space Workforce

General Industry Trends
November 27, 2017
Author
Chad Anderson
Kelsey Tollefson
November 27, 2017
Authors
Chad Anderson
Kelsey Tollefson

The modern space industry is in a period of considerable flux. Government space programs and private sector initiatives are increasingly overlapping; both sides are championing a return to crewed deep-space missions, and new business models have democratized access to space to an unprecedented degree. As the industry evolves, the underlying ideals of progress and potential portend a steady march towards the stars—but the long-term results of this remarkable moment in time are uncertain. Maintaining this momentum in the decades to come will require a precious resource: an able, agile workforce and a new generation of space professionals ready to carry on the mission.

Unless steps are taken, the aerospace industry must contend with a dwindling workforce in the years ahead.

Aerospace Industries Association CEO & President David Melcher speaks at the Florida Aerospace and Defense Workforce Summit on November 15, 2017. Image credit: AIA

A study conducted by the Economic Development Committee of Florida’s Space Coast found that 61.9% of all aeronautical engineers in Brevard County (home to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center) are 45 years or older. This aging trend is not limited to Florida (a state, incidentally, which is dealing with an entirely different type of “aging trend”): According to the U.S. Space Industry Deep Dive Assessment, compiled annually by the U.S. Department of Commerce (Bureau of Industry and Security), a similar proportion of the nation’s space engineers, researchers, and R&D staff are above the age of forty (pg. 18).

These statistics underscore the space industry’s concerns regarding sustainability and continued innovation—for unless industry veterans entering retirement are replaced by qualified and dedicated younger talent, the sector will likely stagnate. The Aerospace Industries Association, a trade organization for the aerospace and defense industry, recognizes this challenge: the AIA’s Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry recommends “that the nation immediately reverse the decline in, and promote the growth of, a scientifically and technologically trained U.S. aerospace workforce,” adding that “the breakdown of America’s intellectual and industrial capacity is a threat to national security and our capability to continue as a world leader.”

To put it bluntly: The old guard of the space industry is aged and retiring. Combine this trend with the growth in the number of equity-funded entrepreneurial space companies and we have a big gap in talent. But the future is bright. A whole host of young people are stepping up to the challenge—and the demographics of today’s space industry workforce are changing drastically.

Related reading - Space Investment Quarterly Q3 2017

The untold value of investing in the next generation of young minds - scientists, inventors, and innovators.

Image credit: Because Learning / Ardusat

Ensuring sustainable momentum and progress within the space industry requires a long-term approach to growing the workforce. For this reason, commercial space companies have a vested interest in sparking the imagination of school-age children, and in demonstrating actual space industry careers to today’s youth. To that end, Lockheed Martin has partnered with Project Lead the Way, an education-centered nonprofit that brings real-world STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)-related learning opportunities to K-12 students across the country. Other large aerospace companies like Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Harris Corporation have each established educational outreach as a facet of their corporate responsibility.  

It’s not just the big-name corporations that are making a point to engage the next generation of scientists and innovators—Space Angels-funded Because Learning, previously known as Ardusat, has their own ideas for how to engage students in STEM fields. Because Learning provides parents, teachers, and students with the high-tech hardware necessary to perform interactive science experiments—including operational CubeSats that students can use to gather data from space. This hands-on exposure to real space technology instills an excitement for space that’s hard to replicate with lessons alone.

At Space Angels, we are committed to supporting not only today’s most exciting space companies, but also the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Image credit: Future Space Leaders

Beyond legacy aerospace institutions like NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense, and their stalwart corporate partners, young rocket scientists and business-savvy space geeks can now choose from an ever-increasing number of potential places of employment. Companies with a certain cachet, like SpaceX, naturally attract their share of applicants these days—in fact, in 2015 SpaceX’s internship program was flooded with 39,000 individuals, of which less than 2% were offered positions. SpaceX also boasts a young workforce, especially when compared to the more established aerospace corporations operating on Florida’s Space Coast: According to data released by PayScale in 2016, the median employee age at SpaceX is 29 years.

While the volume of interested parties may be impressive, ensuring that the applicants are qualified and driven is of supreme importance for a company like SpaceX. This is doubly true for other, less-well-known startups who may not have the name recognition or massive applicant pool that accompanies a buzzed-about Musk venture. For ambitious space startups, assembling the right team can be the difference between pipe dreams and commercial success.

Typically, the first thing a company does after raising a round of funding is hire people—that is why Space Angels is committed to helping educate and create opportunities for talent. Space Angels curates the largest portfolio of entrepreneurial space companies in the world. All told, our portfolio companies employ 6,153 people—and our new talent funnel is helping to fill vacancies in these companies. We are also working closely with top business and engineering schools and research labs to help connect young qualified graduates with exciting opportunities in entrepreneurial space.

At Space Angels, a key tenant of our philosophy is fostering diversity within the space industry—after all, diverse life experiences and points of view are a major driver of innovation. It must be noted, for example, that the PayScale data cited above also revealed a troubling underrepresentation of women in SpaceX’s employee base—of the company’s 4,000+ employees, a mere 14% of them are female. Luckily, organizations like the Future Space Leaders (FSL) and the Brooke Owens Fellowship Program are working to change this dynamic. Future Space Leaders is a nonprofit organization focused on developing the careers of young professionals within the space and satellite industries. FSL’s annual conference in DC is, in the words of Space Angels CEO Chad Anderson, “awesome”: “I attended the Future Space Leaders conference in 2016—it was standing room only and the average age was probably 20. What’s more, there were at least as many women attending as men. It was an extremely encouraging sight and bodes well for the future of the space industry.”

Learn more about the Brooke Owens Fellowship: Enabling the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

Continued progress within the entrepreneurial space industry is contingent upon the next generation of innovative professionals.

In order to protect both national and commercial interests, we need to be sure that the current growth and potential of today’s space industry is maintained—better yet, expanded—in the years to come. This will require a sustainable pipeline of qualified (and passionate) talent. Unlike in years past, however, employment in the space industry is no longer limited to engineering or high-tech manufacturing positions. While the entrepreneurial space industry will undoubtedly always need workers with highly specialized skills, today there is an increasing need for talent in business support and development fields. These roles are crucial to helping new companies get their products and services adopted by a growing market and address the increasing demand from a wide array of commercial customers.

There’s never been a better time to get involved in commercial space. If you’re ready to start investing in private space companies, we invite you to apply for membership to Space Angels.

The modern space industry is in a period of considerable flux. Government space programs and private sector initiatives are increasingly overlapping; both sides are championing a return to crewed deep-space missions, and new business models have democratized access to space to an unprecedented degree. As the industry evolves, the underlying ideals of progress and potential portend a steady march towards the stars—but the long-term results of this remarkable moment in time are uncertain. Maintaining this momentum in the decades to come will require a precious resource: an able, agile workforce and a new generation of space professionals ready to carry on the mission.

Unless steps are taken, the aerospace industry must contend with a dwindling workforce in the years ahead.

Aerospace Industries Association CEO & President David Melcher speaks at the Florida Aerospace and Defense Workforce Summit on November 15, 2017. Image credit: AIA

A study conducted by the Economic Development Committee of Florida’s Space Coast found that 61.9% of all aeronautical engineers in Brevard County (home to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center) are 45 years or older. This aging trend is not limited to Florida (a state, incidentally, which is dealing with an entirely different type of “aging trend”): According to the U.S. Space Industry Deep Dive Assessment, compiled annually by the U.S. Department of Commerce (Bureau of Industry and Security), a similar proportion of the nation’s space engineers, researchers, and R&D staff are above the age of forty (pg. 18).

These statistics underscore the space industry’s concerns regarding sustainability and continued innovation—for unless industry veterans entering retirement are replaced by qualified and dedicated younger talent, the sector will likely stagnate. The Aerospace Industries Association, a trade organization for the aerospace and defense industry, recognizes this challenge: the AIA’s Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry recommends “that the nation immediately reverse the decline in, and promote the growth of, a scientifically and technologically trained U.S. aerospace workforce,” adding that “the breakdown of America’s intellectual and industrial capacity is a threat to national security and our capability to continue as a world leader.”

To put it bluntly: The old guard of the space industry is aged and retiring. Combine this trend with the growth in the number of equity-funded entrepreneurial space companies and we have a big gap in talent. But the future is bright. A whole host of young people are stepping up to the challenge—and the demographics of today’s space industry workforce are changing drastically.

Related reading - Space Investment Quarterly Q3 2017

The untold value of investing in the next generation of young minds - scientists, inventors, and innovators.

Image credit: Because Learning / Ardusat

Ensuring sustainable momentum and progress within the space industry requires a long-term approach to growing the workforce. For this reason, commercial space companies have a vested interest in sparking the imagination of school-age children, and in demonstrating actual space industry careers to today’s youth. To that end, Lockheed Martin has partnered with Project Lead the Way, an education-centered nonprofit that brings real-world STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)-related learning opportunities to K-12 students across the country. Other large aerospace companies like Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Harris Corporation have each established educational outreach as a facet of their corporate responsibility.  

It’s not just the big-name corporations that are making a point to engage the next generation of scientists and innovators—Space Angels-funded Because Learning, previously known as Ardusat, has their own ideas for how to engage students in STEM fields. Because Learning provides parents, teachers, and students with the high-tech hardware necessary to perform interactive science experiments—including operational CubeSats that students can use to gather data from space. This hands-on exposure to real space technology instills an excitement for space that’s hard to replicate with lessons alone.

At Space Angels, we are committed to supporting not only today’s most exciting space companies, but also the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Image credit: Future Space Leaders

Beyond legacy aerospace institutions like NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense, and their stalwart corporate partners, young rocket scientists and business-savvy space geeks can now choose from an ever-increasing number of potential places of employment. Companies with a certain cachet, like SpaceX, naturally attract their share of applicants these days—in fact, in 2015 SpaceX’s internship program was flooded with 39,000 individuals, of which less than 2% were offered positions. SpaceX also boasts a young workforce, especially when compared to the more established aerospace corporations operating on Florida’s Space Coast: According to data released by PayScale in 2016, the median employee age at SpaceX is 29 years.

While the volume of interested parties may be impressive, ensuring that the applicants are qualified and driven is of supreme importance for a company like SpaceX. This is doubly true for other, less-well-known startups who may not have the name recognition or massive applicant pool that accompanies a buzzed-about Musk venture. For ambitious space startups, assembling the right team can be the difference between pipe dreams and commercial success.

Typically, the first thing a company does after raising a round of funding is hire people—that is why Space Angels is committed to helping educate and create opportunities for talent. Space Angels curates the largest portfolio of entrepreneurial space companies in the world. All told, our portfolio companies employ 6,153 people—and our new talent funnel is helping to fill vacancies in these companies. We are also working closely with top business and engineering schools and research labs to help connect young qualified graduates with exciting opportunities in entrepreneurial space.

At Space Angels, a key tenant of our philosophy is fostering diversity within the space industry—after all, diverse life experiences and points of view are a major driver of innovation. It must be noted, for example, that the PayScale data cited above also revealed a troubling underrepresentation of women in SpaceX’s employee base—of the company’s 4,000+ employees, a mere 14% of them are female. Luckily, organizations like the Future Space Leaders (FSL) and the Brooke Owens Fellowship Program are working to change this dynamic. Future Space Leaders is a nonprofit organization focused on developing the careers of young professionals within the space and satellite industries. FSL’s annual conference in DC is, in the words of Space Angels CEO Chad Anderson, “awesome”: “I attended the Future Space Leaders conference in 2016—it was standing room only and the average age was probably 20. What’s more, there were at least as many women attending as men. It was an extremely encouraging sight and bodes well for the future of the space industry.”

Learn more about the Brooke Owens Fellowship: Enabling the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

Continued progress within the entrepreneurial space industry is contingent upon the next generation of innovative professionals.

In order to protect both national and commercial interests, we need to be sure that the current growth and potential of today’s space industry is maintained—better yet, expanded—in the years to come. This will require a sustainable pipeline of qualified (and passionate) talent. Unlike in years past, however, employment in the space industry is no longer limited to engineering or high-tech manufacturing positions. While the entrepreneurial space industry will undoubtedly always need workers with highly specialized skills, today there is an increasing need for talent in business support and development fields. These roles are crucial to helping new companies get their products and services adopted by a growing market and address the increasing demand from a wide array of commercial customers.

There’s never been a better time to get involved in commercial space. If you’re ready to start investing in private space companies, we invite you to apply for membership to Space Angels.

The modern space industry is in a period of considerable flux. Government space programs and private sector initiatives are increasingly overlapping; both sides are championing a return to crewed deep-space missions, and new business models have democratized access to space to an unprecedented degree. As the industry evolves, the underlying ideals of progress and potential portend a steady march towards the stars—but the long-term results of this remarkable moment in time are uncertain. Maintaining this momentum in the decades to come will require a precious resource: an able, agile workforce and a new generation of space professionals ready to carry on the mission.

Unless steps are taken, the aerospace industry must contend with a dwindling workforce in the years ahead.

Aerospace Industries Association CEO & President David Melcher speaks at the Florida Aerospace and Defense Workforce Summit on November 15, 2017. Image credit: AIA

A study conducted by the Economic Development Committee of Florida’s Space Coast found that 61.9% of all aeronautical engineers in Brevard County (home to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center) are 45 years or older. This aging trend is not limited to Florida (a state, incidentally, which is dealing with an entirely different type of “aging trend”): According to the U.S. Space Industry Deep Dive Assessment, compiled annually by the U.S. Department of Commerce (Bureau of Industry and Security), a similar proportion of the nation’s space engineers, researchers, and R&D staff are above the age of forty (pg. 18).

These statistics underscore the space industry’s concerns regarding sustainability and continued innovation—for unless industry veterans entering retirement are replaced by qualified and dedicated younger talent, the sector will likely stagnate. The Aerospace Industries Association, a trade organization for the aerospace and defense industry, recognizes this challenge: the AIA’s Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry recommends “that the nation immediately reverse the decline in, and promote the growth of, a scientifically and technologically trained U.S. aerospace workforce,” adding that “the breakdown of America’s intellectual and industrial capacity is a threat to national security and our capability to continue as a world leader.”

To put it bluntly: The old guard of the space industry is aged and retiring. Combine this trend with the growth in the number of equity-funded entrepreneurial space companies and we have a big gap in talent. But the future is bright. A whole host of young people are stepping up to the challenge—and the demographics of today’s space industry workforce are changing drastically.

Related reading - Space Investment Quarterly Q3 2017

The untold value of investing in the next generation of young minds - scientists, inventors, and innovators.

Image credit: Because Learning / Ardusat

Ensuring sustainable momentum and progress within the space industry requires a long-term approach to growing the workforce. For this reason, commercial space companies have a vested interest in sparking the imagination of school-age children, and in demonstrating actual space industry careers to today’s youth. To that end, Lockheed Martin has partnered with Project Lead the Way, an education-centered nonprofit that brings real-world STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)-related learning opportunities to K-12 students across the country. Other large aerospace companies like Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Harris Corporation have each established educational outreach as a facet of their corporate responsibility.  

It’s not just the big-name corporations that are making a point to engage the next generation of scientists and innovators—Space Angels-funded Because Learning, previously known as Ardusat, has their own ideas for how to engage students in STEM fields. Because Learning provides parents, teachers, and students with the high-tech hardware necessary to perform interactive science experiments—including operational CubeSats that students can use to gather data from space. This hands-on exposure to real space technology instills an excitement for space that’s hard to replicate with lessons alone.

At Space Angels, we are committed to supporting not only today’s most exciting space companies, but also the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Image credit: Future Space Leaders

Beyond legacy aerospace institutions like NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense, and their stalwart corporate partners, young rocket scientists and business-savvy space geeks can now choose from an ever-increasing number of potential places of employment. Companies with a certain cachet, like SpaceX, naturally attract their share of applicants these days—in fact, in 2015 SpaceX’s internship program was flooded with 39,000 individuals, of which less than 2% were offered positions. SpaceX also boasts a young workforce, especially when compared to the more established aerospace corporations operating on Florida’s Space Coast: According to data released by PayScale in 2016, the median employee age at SpaceX is 29 years.

While the volume of interested parties may be impressive, ensuring that the applicants are qualified and driven is of supreme importance for a company like SpaceX. This is doubly true for other, less-well-known startups who may not have the name recognition or massive applicant pool that accompanies a buzzed-about Musk venture. For ambitious space startups, assembling the right team can be the difference between pipe dreams and commercial success.

Typically, the first thing a company does after raising a round of funding is hire people—that is why Space Angels is committed to helping educate and create opportunities for talent. Space Angels curates the largest portfolio of entrepreneurial space companies in the world. All told, our portfolio companies employ 6,153 people—and our new talent funnel is helping to fill vacancies in these companies. We are also working closely with top business and engineering schools and research labs to help connect young qualified graduates with exciting opportunities in entrepreneurial space.

At Space Angels, a key tenant of our philosophy is fostering diversity within the space industry—after all, diverse life experiences and points of view are a major driver of innovation. It must be noted, for example, that the PayScale data cited above also revealed a troubling underrepresentation of women in SpaceX’s employee base—of the company’s 4,000+ employees, a mere 14% of them are female. Luckily, organizations like the Future Space Leaders (FSL) and the Brooke Owens Fellowship Program are working to change this dynamic. Future Space Leaders is a nonprofit organization focused on developing the careers of young professionals within the space and satellite industries. FSL’s annual conference in DC is, in the words of Space Angels CEO Chad Anderson, “awesome”: “I attended the Future Space Leaders conference in 2016—it was standing room only and the average age was probably 20. What’s more, there were at least as many women attending as men. It was an extremely encouraging sight and bodes well for the future of the space industry.”

Learn more about the Brooke Owens Fellowship: Enabling the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

Continued progress within the entrepreneurial space industry is contingent upon the next generation of innovative professionals.

In order to protect both national and commercial interests, we need to be sure that the current growth and potential of today’s space industry is maintained—better yet, expanded—in the years to come. This will require a sustainable pipeline of qualified (and passionate) talent. Unlike in years past, however, employment in the space industry is no longer limited to engineering or high-tech manufacturing positions. While the entrepreneurial space industry will undoubtedly always need workers with highly specialized skills, today there is an increasing need for talent in business support and development fields. These roles are crucial to helping new companies get their products and services adopted by a growing market and address the increasing demand from a wide array of commercial customers.

There’s never been a better time to get involved in commercial space. If you’re ready to start investing in private space companies, we invite you to apply for membership to Space Angels.

The modern space industry is in a period of considerable flux. Government space programs and private sector initiatives are increasingly overlapping; both sides are championing a return to crewed deep-space missions, and new business models have democratized access to space to an unprecedented degree. As the industry evolves, the underlying ideals of progress and potential portend a steady march towards the stars—but the long-term results of this remarkable moment in time are uncertain. Maintaining this momentum in the decades to come will require a precious resource: an able, agile workforce and a new generation of space professionals ready to carry on the mission.

Unless steps are taken, the aerospace industry must contend with a dwindling workforce in the years ahead.

Aerospace Industries Association CEO & President David Melcher speaks at the Florida Aerospace and Defense Workforce Summit on November 15, 2017. Image credit: AIA

A study conducted by the Economic Development Committee of Florida’s Space Coast found that 61.9% of all aeronautical engineers in Brevard County (home to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center) are 45 years or older. This aging trend is not limited to Florida (a state, incidentally, which is dealing with an entirely different type of “aging trend”): According to the U.S. Space Industry Deep Dive Assessment, compiled annually by the U.S. Department of Commerce (Bureau of Industry and Security), a similar proportion of the nation’s space engineers, researchers, and R&D staff are above the age of forty (pg. 18).

These statistics underscore the space industry’s concerns regarding sustainability and continued innovation—for unless industry veterans entering retirement are replaced by qualified and dedicated younger talent, the sector will likely stagnate. The Aerospace Industries Association, a trade organization for the aerospace and defense industry, recognizes this challenge: the AIA’s Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry recommends “that the nation immediately reverse the decline in, and promote the growth of, a scientifically and technologically trained U.S. aerospace workforce,” adding that “the breakdown of America’s intellectual and industrial capacity is a threat to national security and our capability to continue as a world leader.”

To put it bluntly: The old guard of the space industry is aged and retiring. Combine this trend with the growth in the number of equity-funded entrepreneurial space companies and we have a big gap in talent. But the future is bright. A whole host of young people are stepping up to the challenge—and the demographics of today’s space industry workforce are changing drastically.

Related reading - Space Investment Quarterly Q3 2017

The untold value of investing in the next generation of young minds - scientists, inventors, and innovators.

Image credit: Because Learning / Ardusat

Ensuring sustainable momentum and progress within the space industry requires a long-term approach to growing the workforce. For this reason, commercial space companies have a vested interest in sparking the imagination of school-age children, and in demonstrating actual space industry careers to today’s youth. To that end, Lockheed Martin has partnered with Project Lead the Way, an education-centered nonprofit that brings real-world STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)-related learning opportunities to K-12 students across the country. Other large aerospace companies like Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Harris Corporation have each established educational outreach as a facet of their corporate responsibility.  

It’s not just the big-name corporations that are making a point to engage the next generation of scientists and innovators—Space Angels-funded Because Learning, previously known as Ardusat, has their own ideas for how to engage students in STEM fields. Because Learning provides parents, teachers, and students with the high-tech hardware necessary to perform interactive science experiments—including operational CubeSats that students can use to gather data from space. This hands-on exposure to real space technology instills an excitement for space that’s hard to replicate with lessons alone.

At Space Angels, we are committed to supporting not only today’s most exciting space companies, but also the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Image credit: Future Space Leaders

Beyond legacy aerospace institutions like NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense, and their stalwart corporate partners, young rocket scientists and business-savvy space geeks can now choose from an ever-increasing number of potential places of employment. Companies with a certain cachet, like SpaceX, naturally attract their share of applicants these days—in fact, in 2015 SpaceX’s internship program was flooded with 39,000 individuals, of which less than 2% were offered positions. SpaceX also boasts a young workforce, especially when compared to the more established aerospace corporations operating on Florida’s Space Coast: According to data released by PayScale in 2016, the median employee age at SpaceX is 29 years.

While the volume of interested parties may be impressive, ensuring that the applicants are qualified and driven is of supreme importance for a company like SpaceX. This is doubly true for other, less-well-known startups who may not have the name recognition or massive applicant pool that accompanies a buzzed-about Musk venture. For ambitious space startups, assembling the right team can be the difference between pipe dreams and commercial success.

Typically, the first thing a company does after raising a round of funding is hire people—that is why Space Angels is committed to helping educate and create opportunities for talent. Space Angels curates the largest portfolio of entrepreneurial space companies in the world. All told, our portfolio companies employ 6,153 people—and our new talent funnel is helping to fill vacancies in these companies. We are also working closely with top business and engineering schools and research labs to help connect young qualified graduates with exciting opportunities in entrepreneurial space.

At Space Angels, a key tenant of our philosophy is fostering diversity within the space industry—after all, diverse life experiences and points of view are a major driver of innovation. It must be noted, for example, that the PayScale data cited above also revealed a troubling underrepresentation of women in SpaceX’s employee base—of the company’s 4,000+ employees, a mere 14% of them are female. Luckily, organizations like the Future Space Leaders (FSL) and the Brooke Owens Fellowship Program are working to change this dynamic. Future Space Leaders is a nonprofit organization focused on developing the careers of young professionals within the space and satellite industries. FSL’s annual conference in DC is, in the words of Space Angels CEO Chad Anderson, “awesome”: “I attended the Future Space Leaders conference in 2016—it was standing room only and the average age was probably 20. What’s more, there were at least as many women attending as men. It was an extremely encouraging sight and bodes well for the future of the space industry.”

Learn more about the Brooke Owens Fellowship: Enabling the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

Continued progress within the entrepreneurial space industry is contingent upon the next generation of innovative professionals.

In order to protect both national and commercial interests, we need to be sure that the current growth and potential of today’s space industry is maintained—better yet, expanded—in the years to come. This will require a sustainable pipeline of qualified (and passionate) talent. Unlike in years past, however, employment in the space industry is no longer limited to engineering or high-tech manufacturing positions. While the entrepreneurial space industry will undoubtedly always need workers with highly specialized skills, today there is an increasing need for talent in business support and development fields. These roles are crucial to helping new companies get their products and services adopted by a growing market and address the increasing demand from a wide array of commercial customers.

There’s never been a better time to get involved in commercial space. If you’re ready to start investing in private space companies, we invite you to apply for membership to Space Angels.

Encouraging Growth of the Entrepreneurial Space Workforce
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The modern space industry is in a period of considerable flux. Government space programs and private sector initiatives are increasingly overlapping; both sides are championing a return to crewed deep-space missions, and new business models have democratized access to space to an unprecedented degree. As the industry evolves, the underlying ideals of progress and potential portend a steady march towards the stars—but the long-term results of this remarkable moment in time are uncertain. Maintaining this momentum in the decades to come will require a precious resource: an able, agile workforce and a new generation of space professionals ready to carry on the mission.

Unless steps are taken, the aerospace industry must contend with a dwindling workforce in the years ahead.

Aerospace Industries Association CEO & President David Melcher speaks at the Florida Aerospace and Defense Workforce Summit on November 15, 2017. Image credit: AIA

A study conducted by the Economic Development Committee of Florida’s Space Coast found that 61.9% of all aeronautical engineers in Brevard County (home to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center) are 45 years or older. This aging trend is not limited to Florida (a state, incidentally, which is dealing with an entirely different type of “aging trend”): According to the U.S. Space Industry Deep Dive Assessment, compiled annually by the U.S. Department of Commerce (Bureau of Industry and Security), a similar proportion of the nation’s space engineers, researchers, and R&D staff are above the age of forty (pg. 18).

These statistics underscore the space industry’s concerns regarding sustainability and continued innovation—for unless industry veterans entering retirement are replaced by qualified and dedicated younger talent, the sector will likely stagnate. The Aerospace Industries Association, a trade organization for the aerospace and defense industry, recognizes this challenge: the AIA’s Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry recommends “that the nation immediately reverse the decline in, and promote the growth of, a scientifically and technologically trained U.S. aerospace workforce,” adding that “the breakdown of America’s intellectual and industrial capacity is a threat to national security and our capability to continue as a world leader.”

To put it bluntly: The old guard of the space industry is aged and retiring. Combine this trend with the growth in the number of equity-funded entrepreneurial space companies and we have a big gap in talent. But the future is bright. A whole host of young people are stepping up to the challenge—and the demographics of today’s space industry workforce are changing drastically.

Related reading - Space Investment Quarterly Q3 2017

The untold value of investing in the next generation of young minds - scientists, inventors, and innovators.

Image credit: Because Learning / Ardusat

Ensuring sustainable momentum and progress within the space industry requires a long-term approach to growing the workforce. For this reason, commercial space companies have a vested interest in sparking the imagination of school-age children, and in demonstrating actual space industry careers to today’s youth. To that end, Lockheed Martin has partnered with Project Lead the Way, an education-centered nonprofit that brings real-world STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)-related learning opportunities to K-12 students across the country. Other large aerospace companies like Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Harris Corporation have each established educational outreach as a facet of their corporate responsibility.  

It’s not just the big-name corporations that are making a point to engage the next generation of scientists and innovators—Space Angels-funded Because Learning, previously known as Ardusat, has their own ideas for how to engage students in STEM fields. Because Learning provides parents, teachers, and students with the high-tech hardware necessary to perform interactive science experiments—including operational CubeSats that students can use to gather data from space. This hands-on exposure to real space technology instills an excitement for space that’s hard to replicate with lessons alone.

At Space Angels, we are committed to supporting not only today’s most exciting space companies, but also the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Image credit: Future Space Leaders

Beyond legacy aerospace institutions like NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense, and their stalwart corporate partners, young rocket scientists and business-savvy space geeks can now choose from an ever-increasing number of potential places of employment. Companies with a certain cachet, like SpaceX, naturally attract their share of applicants these days—in fact, in 2015 SpaceX’s internship program was flooded with 39,000 individuals, of which less than 2% were offered positions. SpaceX also boasts a young workforce, especially when compared to the more established aerospace corporations operating on Florida’s Space Coast: According to data released by PayScale in 2016, the median employee age at SpaceX is 29 years.

While the volume of interested parties may be impressive, ensuring that the applicants are qualified and driven is of supreme importance for a company like SpaceX. This is doubly true for other, less-well-known startups who may not have the name recognition or massive applicant pool that accompanies a buzzed-about Musk venture. For ambitious space startups, assembling the right team can be the difference between pipe dreams and commercial success.

Typically, the first thing a company does after raising a round of funding is hire people—that is why Space Angels is committed to helping educate and create opportunities for talent. Space Angels curates the largest portfolio of entrepreneurial space companies in the world. All told, our portfolio companies employ 6,153 people—and our new talent funnel is helping to fill vacancies in these companies. We are also working closely with top business and engineering schools and research labs to help connect young qualified graduates with exciting opportunities in entrepreneurial space.

At Space Angels, a key tenant of our philosophy is fostering diversity within the space industry—after all, diverse life experiences and points of view are a major driver of innovation. It must be noted, for example, that the PayScale data cited above also revealed a troubling underrepresentation of women in SpaceX’s employee base—of the company’s 4,000+ employees, a mere 14% of them are female. Luckily, organizations like the Future Space Leaders (FSL) and the Brooke Owens Fellowship Program are working to change this dynamic. Future Space Leaders is a nonprofit organization focused on developing the careers of young professionals within the space and satellite industries. FSL’s annual conference in DC is, in the words of Space Angels CEO Chad Anderson, “awesome”: “I attended the Future Space Leaders conference in 2016—it was standing room only and the average age was probably 20. What’s more, there were at least as many women attending as men. It was an extremely encouraging sight and bodes well for the future of the space industry.”

Learn more about the Brooke Owens Fellowship: Enabling the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

Continued progress within the entrepreneurial space industry is contingent upon the next generation of innovative professionals.

In order to protect both national and commercial interests, we need to be sure that the current growth and potential of today’s space industry is maintained—better yet, expanded—in the years to come. This will require a sustainable pipeline of qualified (and passionate) talent. Unlike in years past, however, employment in the space industry is no longer limited to engineering or high-tech manufacturing positions. While the entrepreneurial space industry will undoubtedly always need workers with highly specialized skills, today there is an increasing need for talent in business support and development fields. These roles are crucial to helping new companies get their products and services adopted by a growing market and address the increasing demand from a wide array of commercial customers.

There’s never been a better time to get involved in commercial space. If you’re ready to start investing in private space companies, we invite you to apply for membership to Space Angels.

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There is serious financial upside to space investing, and commercial space is inspiring a new generation of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. Your investment will be instrumental in making this happen. The fact is that space angels are investing in innovative ventures that will help launch humanity’s storyline off-planet.

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