Filling the gaps in the UK space sector

I often hear hiring managers complaining that there aren’t enough software developers, or people with the skillsets they are looking for, and this is certainly the case in the space sector.

The UK Space Agency has now launched some new funding for training programmes they hope will address the needs of the sector and encourage more people into the industry.

The recently announced Training Programmes Fund has a pot of £1.8m to fund courses and training with the aim of removing barriers to the growth of the UK space sector. But interested parties will have to act fast – the deadline for applications is only a month away, at 5pm on 29th March (Good Friday!).

According to Peter Trussell, Future Workforce Lead at the UKSA, the Agency is looking to fund new training courses that address the skills needs of the industry and which have an “identified and evidenced” customer base. The courses need to be accessible, easy-to-update, and meet industry standards, as well as be self-sustaining once funding is withdrawn. The UKSA is underwriting the development and delivery of courses that must be free to access during the course of the grant in an attempt to catalyse new training initiatives.

Among the challenges the UK space industry faces is the shortage of electronics, software and systems engineering skills, and the difficulty recruiting to these roles due to high competition. 45% of companies reported difficulties keeping staff due to poaching (from within and outside the sector) and low pay, and 83% have faced problems hiring from abroad. (Data from the Space Sector Skills Report 2023.)

Lack of diversity is also an area the industry needs to address. Women are currently just 23.7% of the UK space workforce (Size and Health of UK Space Industry 2022).

Applications for funding from the Training Programmes Fund can target existing space industry employees, career changers, students and early-careers programmes, people in unemployment, disadvantaged or underserved people, and those from a diverse range of backgrounds. Indeed, potential applicants were reminded that diversity is important to the UKSA and encouraged to make it clear if their proposals would improve diversity.

In terms of timing, the deadline for applications is 29th March, with panel reviews beginning as soon as April 1st. They hope to begin due diligence work on 8th April, notify successful applicants in the week commencing 22nd April, so work on programmes can begin the following week. The only catch is that the grant period ends on 21st March 2025, meaning that all development, recruitment, delivery and evaluation of these new training programmes must be complete by that date.

It’s a big ask – and one wonders if by attempting to do so much in so little time, the potential impact of the scheme might be hampered – but it’s a positive sign that the Agency is putting its money where its mouth is to support the UK’s growing space sector.

If you’re in the space sector, with a skills-gap that you need help filling, or perhaps you’re a training company who’d like to partner with space experts to develop a bid for funding, take a look at the advice for applicants. I’m available on a freelance basis if you need support making connections, researching, writing, or sense-checking bids. Let’s make it happen!

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