The space sector in the UK is growing more than 3% annually and with 68% of UK space companies predict that they will be hiring in the next 3 years the sector could be facing a skills shortage. The Space Skills Alliance conducted a study of 812 unique early career space sector job listings to quantify the skills shortage and identify which skills are most in demand.
The study divided the job listings into functional areas (e.g. data analysis, electrical engineering, business), business size (from micro businesses with <9 employees to large with >250 employees) and by segment (upstream business areas such as launch services and testing, downstream such as satellite user data and communications, or ancillary such as policy and finance) in order to analyse the job landscape for graduates looking for direct entry into the field.
The study found that the most in demand skills across the board were transferable soft skills with 84% and 75% of listings seeking applications from individuals with high interpersonal and communication skills respectively. However, the most in demand technical skill that employers were looking for was software development skills and data analysis. Almost half of all space sector job listing require software development skills in general, but 22% of all job listings are looking for candidates with skills in C/C++, 20% are looking for skills in Python, 12% in MATLAB and 11% in Java. In fact almost all (95%) software engineering space sector jobs in the study asked for these skills.
Similarly, 62% and 71% of remote sensing roles require data analysis and GIS skills respectively, and unsurprisingly, electronics skills were in demand for 51% of electronic engineering roles in the study.
With the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee stating in 2016 that the ‘UK faces a digital skills crisis’ and found that the skills gap is affecting 93% of UK tech companies. In combination with a 2018 study by the Edge Foundation which found there were more than 600,000 tech vacancies, it is suggested that the skills gap in the space sector is a result of the much larger UK tech skills shortage.
To summarise, it is critical that the UK space sector insures that these important, in demand skills are taught and developed in higher education to create graduates that are poised to fill the skills gap and occupy vital technical roles in the UK.
The full report can be found at https://spaceskills.org/skills-demand-for-early-career-space-jobs
South West Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications