WASHINGTON — The Aerospace Corp. and the Space Foundation announced March 18 they are partnering to expand the Space Workforce 2030 program.

Aerospace started the Space Workforce 2030 initiative in 2022, forming a coalition of about 30 member companies with the goal of promoting a more diverse and inclusive workforce within the space industry, and to help inspire and prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Melanie Stricklan, co-founder and former CEO of Slingshot Aerospace, was tapped as the first executive director of Space Workforce 2030

Aerospace CEO Steve Isakowitz said Stricklan will lead several new initiatives such as increase outreach to underrepresented groups, provide educational opportunities like internships, and work with companies to promote inclusive hiring practices.

Aerospace is a nonprofit corporation that advises government agencies and operates a federally funded research and development center. The Space Foundation is a nonprofit organization focused on education and outreach. 

Space Workforce 2030 so far has relied on volunteers and administrative support from Aerospace. Given the demand for more activities, “we realized we needed to partner with an organization that could take us to the next level,” Isakowitz said. “Adding an executive director will allow us to raise money, raise our profile, and take on a lot of the great things that we haven’t been able to take on.”

The members of the group share workforce data to inform trend analysis about industry demographics and workforce diversity. “We will continue to collect data,” said Stricklan. “All the companies will continue to make sure that there is transparency and accountability.”

Industry faces talent shortages

The space industry is at a critical juncture, said Stricklan. Commercial space companies and government agencies face complex demands, and are confronting a shrinking talent pool and fierce competition for those with specialized skills and experience, she said. 

Part of the challenge is a declining number of students pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees that form the foundation for most space careers. There are also concerns that the industry is failing to attract candidates from diverse backgrounds who may be unaware of the exciting opportunities.

Space Workforce 2030 plans to work hand-in-hand with universities, community colleges and high schools to foster interest in space careers, Stricklan said.

One of its most successful initiatives is the National Space Intern Program to prepare students for space careers. About 332 interns participated in the first year and more than 4,100 undergraduate and graduate students registered for the 2024 program.

Space Foundation CEO Heather Pringle said Space Workforce 2030 is partnering with the White House, NASA, industry and academia to host its first annual National Space Day, a nationwide event with in-person and streaming components designed to inspire the next generation.

“We’re very excited to be a part of this new chapter,” Pringle said.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...