SPIN: Insights and Evolution

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We’re excited to share our new interview with our skills team here at the Catapult and the UK Space Agency, delving into the Space Placements in Industry programme – the SPIN programme serves as a pivotal bridge between academia and industry, offering invaluable opportunities for aspiring students to gain hands-on experience within the space sector.

Join us as we explore the program’s mission, impact, and the exciting prospects it presents for the future of space exploration and innovation.

Can you give us an overview of the Space Placements in Industry (SPIN) programme and its primary objectives?

The SPIN programme provides placement opportunities for those considering employment in the space sector. It was developed to address comments from employers about the lack of experience of the workplace – demonstrated or reported – by graduate job applicants. It connects university students to space sector organisations who want to find the most talented and enthusiastic people to ensure the future success of their businesses. As such, the SPIN programme seeks to address some of the skills gaps in the current and future space workforce, as noted in the Space Skills Sector Survey 2023.

How has the SPIN programme evolved or improved over the years since its inception?

The scheme has been running since 2013 and continues to grow in popularity. The Satellite Applications Catapult has consistently supported the student aspect of the scheme, advertising all placements and collating applications. Over time it has evolved to become more automated. Now, online forms are used to collect proposals from employers, and a panel of experts remotely evaluates grant applications.

This year, we will automate student recruitment using a blind recruitment platform, BeApplied. This platform allows employers to rapidly evaluate student applications without any unconscious biases. It also ensures that the initial evaluation of student applicants is based on their responses to specific questions that the employers upload.

Last year, the Catapult piloted the BeApplied platform for their own SPIN cohort and found that it attracted a more diverse group of applicants. This resulted in a more diverse cohort of SPINterns without compromising on quality. In 2023, we saw an increase in the number of opportunities offered by employers, leading to 79 student placements within 56 organisations. This is a testament to the growing success and impact of our programme.

This year, we are excited to offer an unprecedented number of placements with over 100 opportunities!

We anticipate a larger cohort of SPINterns than ever before, who will enjoy a unique induction into the sector. These interns will also have the chance to present the fruits of their labour at the SPIN Showcase event, before an enthusiastic audience. This is truly an exciting time for all involved.

What are the main benefits that participants gain from being part of the SPIN programme? (both employers and students)

The SPINtern programme provides students with the unique opportunity to work alongside space company employees on real projects within the space industry. This experience not only allows SPINterns to meet other individuals with a focus on space but has also been found to boost their overall confidence. Previous SPINterns have noted that the programme particularly enhanced their ability to communicate with professionals and understand workplace requirements. Many SPINterns receive job offers from their host companies, and all agree that their placements have significantly improved their career prospects.

Host companies benefit from having a specific project executed that they may not have had the resources for otherwise. Moreover, it offers them a chance to work with potential future employees for a minimum period of eight weeks. This hands-on experience can be invaluable in assessing a candidate’s suitability for long-term employment.

Could you share some success stories or notable achievements resulting from the SPIN programme?

The SPIN Programme showcases exceptional success stories, noteworthy achievements and the positive impact of participants’ career paths as reflected in evaluation feedback. With an average feedback rating from last year of 9.35/10.00, the programme received high praise from its participants. Following their SPINternship experiences, an impressive 95% of participants expressed a keen interest in working within the UK space industry. Notably, the programme significantly bolstered career prospects, with 100% of participants believing that it enhanced their career opportunities. Remarkably, 40% of participants secured job offers immediately after completing the programme. Beyond job placements, the programme delivered substantial ‘soft’ benefits, as reported by participants: 76% experienced increased overall confidence, 86% gained confidence in engaging with professionals, 90% saw improvements in their professional skills, and 86% developed a better understanding of workplace requirements.

These remarkable outcomes highlight the SPIN Programme’s profound impact in not only shaping career paths but also in equipping individuals with the necessary confidence and skills for success within the space industry. We are delighted that former SPINterns, now well embedded within the sector are now employing SPINterns themselves, and several of them hold senior positions within exciting new companies.

In what ways does the SPIN programme contribute to the advancement of the space industry?

Through these internships, individuals can immerse themselves in real-world projects, acquiring valuable skills and insights whilst contributing to the advancement of the sector. SPINternships facilitate the exchange of knowledge, fostering innovation by bridging academic learning with practical applications. By nurturing aspiring talents, SPIN plays a crucial role in shaping the future workforce of the space industry, driving innovation and progress in this dynamic field.

In addition, the Space Skills Survey 2023 plays a significant role in this process. The survey, conducted by the UK Space Agency in partnership with the Space Skills Alliance and know.space, provides valuable insights into the recruitment, retention, skills needs and gaps, and training provision within the space sector. These insights help shape future policy and ensure that the SPIN programme and other initiatives are effectively addressing the sector’s needs.

Through these efforts, the SPIN programme is driving innovation and progress in the space industry, ensuring a skilled, diverse, and sustainable workforce for the future.

Could you elaborate on the opportunities available through the SPIN programme’s award scheme for 2024?

The diversity of opportunities is incredibly broad. Whether it’s using satellite data to identify plastic pollution in the oceans, expediting archaeological surveys or mapping trees in urban environments, designing and constructing innovative components for rocket engines, determining precise orbits, mapping supply chains, or engaging in marketing and promotion, there’s genuinely an opportunity for everyone. The scope is as broad as ever.

What sets the SPIN programme apart from other similar initiatives in the industry?

Many of the big employers across the sector offer internships in their organisations, and other initiatives, like Prospero, have recently launched. SPIN, distinct from other initiatives, offers grants to employers, mitigating the risks associated with hiring interns. This approach allows the UK Space Agency to channel SPINternships towards areas where certain skills are notably scarce within the sector. However, it’s important to note that the Agency does not exclusively decide which projects proceed. In fact, all projects are welcomed, provided they fall within the scope of the space industry.

The profile of the scheme also means that students can easily see what employers are looking for and even consider how they can direct their own learning towards these deficit areas. The scheme also provides an Induction Day to introduce all the students to the breadth and depth of the sector, often introducing them to aspects of the sector they weren’t aware of. The Showcase Event at the end of the placements has been developed to ensure that the SPINterns are able to develop and demonstrate their professional communication skills, an area which employers consistently describe as important in their recruits. This sets it apart, allowing participants to gain tangible skills, insights, and networking opportunities.

Moreover, SPIN’s collaborative approach with industry partners ensures that its offerings remain aligned with industry needs, promotes innovation and addresses emerging challenges within the space sector. This tailored and hands-on approach sets SPIN apart as a valuable programme that prepares individuals for impactful roles in the ever-evolving landscape of space sector. It’s not just about technology; it’s about the broader aspects of the space industry. This includes areas such as policymaking, business development, project management, and scientific research. By providing real-world experience and fostering skills across these diverse areas, SPIN helps to shape well-rounded professionals who can contribute to the growth and innovation of the space industry in multiple ways. This holistic approach ensures that the future of the space sector is in capable hands.

What advice or insights would you give to someone considering participating in the SPIN programme? (for both employers and students)

For Employers: Consider participating in the SPIN programme as it presents an excellent opportunity to nurture talent and contribute to the future workforce of the space industry. By hosting a SPINtern, you can provide aspiring individuals with valuable hands-on experience, access to real-world projects, and mentorship from industry experts. This engagement not only benefits the interns but also allows your organisation to tap into fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and potential future talent. This enables your organisation to foster learning and inspire the next generation of professionals in the space sector.

For Students: If you’re considering participating in the SPIN programme, seize the chance to gain practical experience and skills in the UK space industry through a SPINternship. This opportunity offers invaluable insights, exposure to real projects, and mentorship. It’s a platform to apply your academic knowledge in a practical setting, develop industry-relevant skills, and expand your network within the space sector. You can actively engage in the projects to maximize your learning experience and prepare yourself for a potential career in exciting space industry. The opportunities advertised will also provide you with insights which can help you to tailor your own learning choices whilst still at university.

Testimonials from host companies:

  • “The SPIN scheme is excellent. All of our past SPINterns have accepted offers to continue working with us and we look forward to interviewing next year’s candidates.”
  • “The SPIN programme is a very useful government support for startups. We find a lot of high-quality applicants from universities, and it is always great working with them.”
  • “The scheme has resulted in a top tier intern creating an excellent body of work which will directly feed into our future projects and customer relations.”
  • “Although our SPINtern came from a technical background and had little experience with marketing, he delivered a thorough marketing plan, exceeding our expectations. We now have a marketing plan with good suggestions on how to improve this aspect of the business.”