Developing the space workforce

Developing the space workforce

CTE Momentum and the Middle Grades CTE Accelerator help connect students with space careers.

You could say space is having a moment: The James Webb Space Telescope is revealing hidden parts of the universe. Thousands of Starlink internet satellites crawl across the sky. People who are alive today may live to see human settlements on the Moon or even Mars. Space-based solar farms could someday be a source of clean energy. And what researchers are learning about growing food in deep space could change agriculture on Earth.

When we wrote about building a thoughtful space economy in 2019, analysts predicted space would be a $1 trillion industry by 2040. Now, Bank of America estimates the space industry will be a $1.4 trillion business as soon as 2030. Investment, activity, and enthusiasm for exploration are booming — but to achieve its otherworldly ambitions, the industry will need to address a familiar challenge: developing a strong workforce.

The same skills that are in high demand across many industries — software engineering, data science, project management, operations, and increasingly, AI — are also critical in the space industry. But the industry needs expertise in many areas, from hospitality and finance to marketing and manufacturing.

As part of the National Space Council’s larger efforts to inspire, prepare, and employ the space workforce, the U.S. Department of Education and NASA are collaborating on a range of programs to increase access to STEM and space education. Two programs — both designed and managed by Luminary Labs — are helping connect students with space careers.

CTE Momentum: Your Place in Space Challenge

Any career can be a space career — and career and technical education (CTE) programs already present a natural starting point for a space career. The Your Place in Space Challenge,  a CTE Momentum challenge, connects the dots between the skills students build in CTE programs and the fulfilling careers they can have in the space industry. The U.S. Department of Education invited high schools to submit designs for a product or service that will contribute to space missions and exploration.

Schools across the country submitted new solutions for space, which will be scored by a review panel and judging panel. The panel of judges includes Honeywell Aerospace Director of Product Design Niteesh Elias, Advance CTE Senior Director of Policy Nithya Govindasamy, Lockheed Martin Senior System Architect Ali Guarneros Luna, NASA Astronaut Megan McArthur, Ph.D., and CEO and co-founder Ted Tagami. Learn more about the judges and reviewers.

Middle Grades CTE Accelerator

Middle-grade CTE programming provides a unique opportunity to expose students to critical careers in cybersecurity and space science. The Middle Grades CTE Accelerator is an innovative professional development program for teachers, administrators, and counselors. This year, eight inaugural sites — six focused on cybersecurity and two focused on space — are delivering customized professional development to help local teachers integrate cybersecurity or space education into their CTE programming, based on local needs and existing educational ecosystems.

In February, the Middle Grades CTE Accelerator team will present “Building the space education ecosystem” at the Space Exploration Educators Conference. The session will feature insights from Luminary Labs Engagement Manager Natalia Allen and Virginia Space Grant Consortium Director Emeritus Mary Sandy. Learn more about the conference at Space Center Houston.

Image credit: NASA