Upskilling for the space sector

Sarah Burns General News

The ‘Skills demand for early career space jobs’ report was published last week (18th May 2020), which was a dive into the skills that are needed and required for anyone in the early stages of a career into the space sector, as well as those which will be needed to support growth in the space sector and reach the targets that have been set by the UK government. This report is the ‘first quantitative assessment of skills demand in the UK space sector’, and provides useful insight for a number of organisations, including SMEs and Universities.

You may find this surprising but the ‘most sought after technical skill is software development’.  If you’re wondering why this is, well it’s likely due to the number of applications and software products being developed from the data coming from space, as well as a lot of engineering being software based.

A major challenge in the space sector is communicating the value it adds to business from many different sectors, including agriculture, logistics and health.   Also highlighted from the report is the ‘high demand for transferable skills including interpersonal (84%) and communication (76%) skills’.   So, technical skills are needed but these types of transferable skills will be valuable as the space sector communicates outwith itself and therefore needs communicators and those that can translate technical ideas to commercial or business situations.

teamwork activity at Scotland's space incubator

There are programmes available that offer support for upskilling staff.  Graduate Apprenticeships (GA) allow employers to upskill an employee through work-based learning towards a Bachelor degree (BSc Hons).  These apprenticeships have been designed in collaboration with industry to meet recognised skills gaps, and be compatible with the workplace.  And the best news for companies, the programme is funded by the Apprenticeship Levy – which means all tuition fees are paid!  The funding is available for companies with a facility in Scotland, where the apprentice is employed at that facility and domiciled in Scotland

The programme was introduced in 2017 by Skills Development Scotland and is a higher level apprenticeship than the Foundation and Modern apprenticeships that you may know about.

If you’re not sold yet, then here’s some additional benefits for your company, and you as an employer:

  • Attract high potential individuals to your company
  • Retain and develop your existing workforce
  • Recoup the Apprenticeship Levy
  • Grow a skilled Data Scientist/Software Developer etc who is familiar with your organisation and industry
  • Increase number of women in STEM
  • Develop a strong working relationship with the University

Some relevant apprenticeships for the space sector…

Data Science @ University of Stirling

Software development @ University of Strathclyde

Business Management @ University of Strathclyde


The full Skills demand report is available here.