News: Boom in space industry prompting demand for talent

Talent Acquisition

Boom in space industry prompting demand for talent

The three-way race between NASA, Blue Origin, and SpaceX for aerospace dominance continues to heat up as all three organisations vie for the best new talent available.
Boom in space industry prompting demand for talent

Despite NASA's position as the US government’s space agency, NASA is falling behind its two rivals, Blue Origin and SpaceX, when it comes to recruiting engineers. The problem lies in the agency’s inability to match the big salaries that Blue Origin and SpaceX can offer to candidates.

As a government agency, NASA has to follow General Schedule pay scales, which set starting salaries at around US$54,557 for engineers with a bachelor’s degree, $66,731 for those with a master’s degree, and $73,038 for those with a PhD.

Meanwhile, SpaceX provides aerospace engineers with starting salaries ranging from $95,000 to $115,000 a year.

However, getting a higher salary is not the only reason why young engineers choose to work for the two private firms. Many graduates from prestigious colleges see a better opportunity to contribute to the ambitious goals of start-up companies.

Blue Origin and SpaceX are quick to jump at the chance to recruit top talent to their ranks. Blue Origin currently has over 10,000 employees, but the company is still looking to add 1,500 more as of March. SpaceX, on the other hand, employs more than 11,000 workers and more than 1,100 job openings.

Both companies also enjoy the pick of the litter as many of their job candidates come from colleges with elite aerospace programs such as Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Michigan.

READ MORE | Why Australian companies opt for skills-first hiring

A boom in the space industry

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, aerospace engineer jobs are expected to grow by as much as 6% between 2022 and 2023. This is twice as fast compared to the average growth rate of jobs in the US overall.

The global space economy is even projected to grow by an estimated 40%, with a total value of $770 billion, over the next five years.

Daniel Hastings, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, believes this anticipated boom in the aerospace industry is what attracts young engineers to join space companies.

“Twenty years ago, you would not have characterised the space business as fast-moving,” he said.

Blue Origin and SpaceX also use a different approach to talent recruitment that sets them apart from their competitors. Instead of setting up booths at career fairs, like Boeing and Lockheed Martin, Blue Origin and SpaceX recruiters visit colleges and speak directly to members of their rocket clubs and robotics teams.

There seems to be a fundamental difference in how candidate interviews are conducted as well. Students who have taken interviews with NASA said conversations were more about what they have written on their resume to find out if they are qualified for the job. Questions also focused more on getting to know the applicants’ personalities.

Meanwhile, interviewers from Blue Origin and other private firms liked to ask more technical questions to learn what they would benefit from hiring the job candidate.

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Dealing with high turnover rates

Blue Origin and SpaceX are two of the most sought-after aerospace companies for prospective engineers. However, workers at both companies are not immune to the challenges of working in a highly competitive environment.

Students are aware of the mental and physical toll that comes with working for private firms. This leads some workers to look for better conditions at more established space companies.

William Putaansuu, an aerospace engineering student at Georgia Institute of Technology, described the worker turnover rate at Blue Origin and SpaceX as “insanely high”.

“[It is] not because they don’t necessarily like working for that company, but there are so many offers out there,” Putaansuu told Fortune.

Offering a better work-life balance

Despite not being able to provide the same pay as private firms like Blue Origin and SpaceX, NASA recruiters believe they offer better work-life balance for engineers.

Ann Richmond, deputy director of talent services at NASA, said the space agency provides workers with federal retirement and health benefits, as well as opportunities for promotion.

“We see some very savvy applicants that are really looking at the total compensation package,” Richmond said.

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Topics: Talent Acquisition, Recruitment

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