The Space Foundation today launched its Center for Innovation and Education, focusing on inclusive, innovative and sustainable workforce development and economic opportunity programs for the $415 billion global space economy.

“Every person on planet Earth can find a place in the space economy, regardless of the present state of the job market,” Space Foundation CEO Tom Zelibor said, introducing the center in a video posted to the organization’s website.

“The space industry has remained one of the most resilient business sectors throughout the COVID-19 crisis. With 80 percent of business coming from private enterprise, and ample time for building awareness and skills, a rare opportunity exists to solve the workforce shortage and drive innovation forward in the space economy.”

The center is putting out a call for corporate members, partners, sponsors, grantors and donors.

“Space Foundation has spent the last three decades developing and collaborating with the largest global network of space professionals in order to conduct world-class training and research,” said Shelli Brunswick, Space Foundation COO.

“We rely on corporate members, partners, sponsors and grantors to support our efforts to deliver services to the global space community. The Center for Innovation and Education can take these assets and apply them to build today’s professional workforce and a strong pipeline for the future.”

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According to the Space Foundation, more than 80 nations are currently operating in the space economy and the market is estimated to grow to $1-3 trillion in the next 20 years.

“While opportunity abounds, the space industry faces a workforce shortage, skills deficit, and space technology innovation gap,” the Space Foundation announcement states. 

“Without manpower — laborers to entrepreneurs to STEM experts — and continual career upskilling to enable the commercialization of space technology innovations, the full potential of the space economy will not be realized.”

Shortages in skilled workers in the space industry are forecast by several economic analyses.

The Center for Innovation and Education operates according to a workforce development roadmap, which “lays out initiatives for building the professional workforce of today as well as the next-generation workforce of tomorrow.”

It follows five disciplines designed to combat the challenges of building a qualified space workforce:

  1. Awareness of space impact and the economic opportunity
  2. Access to jobs, careers and business ventures for all people
  3. Training for lifelong learning of sustainable skills
  4. Connections to a vast space network of people, businesses and resources
  5. Mentorship of young leaders to be next-generation role models

The Center for Innovation and Education already has piloted two successful programs through partnerships with public and private enterprises, government agencies, universities and local communities. They are:

  • Space Commerce Entrepreneurship Program – Funded primarily by a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency, Space Foundation conducted workshops in nine cities for 275+ minority entrepreneurs and small businesses. Spotlighting the program’s early success, one small business has signed multi-million-dollar deals, and other space scholars are progressing through engagements in the space community.
  • Junior Space Entrepreneur Program (JSEP) – Supported by Lockheed Martin, NASA and Junior Achievement, a successful pilot program for 26 teachers from 16 states led to the first student entrepreneur program in early 2020 for 50 public high school students. This program won recognition in the Fast Company World Changing Ideas award competition.

To learn more about the Center for Innovation and Education, visit www.spacefoundation.org/cie/

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