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Satellite Sector Needs to Work on its PR Problem

By | August 1, 2010

      It’s not often that I have the time these days to write stories. But, the chance to collaborate with Associate Editor Mark Holmes on our two-part education series provided me with one of those opportunities. I look forward to interviewing and writing because it keeps me connected with the industry and the officials that play key roles.

      For this two-part series, Mark and I gathered a lot of information on the state of the satellite sector workforce and efforts to educate and attract the next generation of workers. We put as much as we could in Via Satellite — the July and August editions — and even more in our electronic platforms on the Web site.

      The space sector has been concerned about the state of its workforce for quite some time now and undertaking this story helped me learn more than I would have simply editing an article written by someone else.

      Iain Probert, vice president, education, for the Space Foundation, brought up an interesting point, noting that the problems facing the space sector are not limited to just the engineering aspect. “Attracting the marketing and PR folks also is important, because the industry needs them, not just the Lockheed Martins but also the likes of Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic. I think a lot of people agree that Branson has done a good job with his PR and marketing with what he has done with Virgin Atlantic and one used Boeing plane. [We need people] bringing those ideas into the 21st century”

      That observation ties into the well-discussed theory that the space sector, at least in the United States, is not inspiring younger generations as it has in the past. This was especially noticeable when looking at the difference between the younger generations in the Western Hemisphere and the Eastern Hemisphere. In the United States and Europe, a lot of time and money is being spent to attract students into the STEM areas, and even more must be spent to direct their attention to space- and satellite-specific careers.

      The state of education in the Asia-Pacific region stands in stark contrast. In India alone, the government focuses is not on attracting students to the satellite field but on finding the cream of the crop. Graduates of the India Institute of Space Technology (ISRO) are assured of having a job at ISRO, and its most recent class of 350 students was drawn from more than 80,000 applicants. It’s a problem many countries would love to have.

      The difference likely is due to the different levels of maturity between the two space sectors. But, along with educating the next generation of students, the United States and Europe need to hone their messages and find a way to reignite that spark of interest in the space sector.

      The various players — commercial and government — are working hard to solve the issue and it looks to be a long and difficult task.

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