Europe in Space

2014 was the 50th anniversary of Europe’s entry into the ‘space race’. Today, over 35,000 people are employed directly by the space industry across Europe.

Europe’s participation in the market is spearheaded by ESA. In 1964 two organisations were established:

  • The European Launcher Development Organisation (ELDO)
  • The European Space Research Organisation (ESRO)

Just over ten years later, these two organisations were replaced by the European Space Agency (ESA) as the vehicle to drive innovation and increased European cooperation.

ESA has played an important part in establishing independent European access to space itself and to the technological and commercial opportunities it offers. The forecast for huge growth in European space activity will drive forward from this foundation and maintain Europe’s status at the forefront of space research and operation.

ESA has an annual budget of some £5.5 billion. This Europe-wide governmental funding stimulates both government and commercial markets, like the growth in satellite deployment for example, where all sectors have an interest.

The EU market acts as a model for the future of space industry programme staffing: assembly of the right blend of knowledge and experience with teams comprising multinational participants.

The space industry is research-led, requiring the brightest people from an array of specialist domains. The expanding market is likely to lead to skills shortages, at least in the short term, as the supply of qualified people expands to meet demand.

Line and HR managers will need to plan effectively if they are to attract and retain the permanent and temporary workers required for success and to maintain competitive advantage.

Worldwide growth

The space industry is truly global: many projects are multinational in the planning development, launch and operation and new countries are continuously entering the market.

The space market is big. The largest player in the market is the USA: NASA employs 18,000 people directly and US industry supports a further 350,000 throughout the supply chain.  This equates to annual revenues of over $60 billion.

The space industry is evolving. December 2013 saw Bolivia become the latest member of the space family as it launched its first communications satellite. India, China and others are increasing their focus on space.

Governments across the globe are investing growing amounts in satellites and other space-based technologies. In addition to facilitating governmental requirements, this investment is designed to boost local high-tech industries to stimulate industrial performance and international competitiveness.

Commercial investment in space technologies – particularly satellites – is growing as the world becomes increasingly technology driven.

The expanding and increasingly global nature of the space industry provides increased opportunity for employees to seek career development via the most interesting and challenging programmes, wherever they are.

This provides both benefits and challenges for organisations looking to recruit. On the plus side, the potential of taking on people with wider and more up-to-the minute experience is a desirable one.  On the downside this means a more mobile employee base and increasing difficulties in attracting and retaining the talent needed.

Recruitment and HR policies will evolve to manage this evolving situation, and keeping a close eye on the talent market will form an important element of programme and organisation planning.