Building a Resilient Space Workforce: Insights from the Celestial Search at the European Space Forum 2023

 Building a Resilient Space Workforce: Insights from the Celestial Search at the European Space Forum 2023

The European Space Forum 2023 brought together industry leaders, policymakers, and experts to discuss the pressing challenges and opportunities facing the space industry in Europe. One of the highly anticipated panels was “Skills, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship – does Europe have what it needs to ensure a strong and resilient space industry for the long-term?” This panel delved into the critical aspects that can shape the future of the European space sector and its ability to remain competitive in the global space race.

The panellists explored the complex interplay between skills, innovation, and entrepreneurship and its impact on the growth and sustainability of the European space industry. As advancements in space technology continue to accelerate, the need for skilled professionals with expertise in various fields is paramount. Europe must foster a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem and support innovation to stay ahead in this fast-evolving domain.

During the panel discussion, experts shared their insights, exchanged ideas, and proposed innovative solutions to the challenges ahead. Among the esteemed panellists was Billy Duenas, the co-founder of Celestial Search, a specialized recruitment agency focused on the space industry.

Nurturing a Space-Centric Workforce

Speaking about the state of play in acquiring and fostering skills in space, Billy talked about how recruitment in the space industry presented unique challenges, given the rapid advancements in space technology and the increasing demand for specialized skills. Generalized recruitment agencies often struggle to comprehend the intricacies of the space sector. In contrast, space-exclusive agencies face their competitive landscape.

Celestial Search, however, distinguishes itself with its unitary focus on the space industry. By concentrating exclusively on space-related vacancies, they have honed their understanding of industry nuances and the requirements of space organizations. This specialized knowledge allows Celestial Search to connect talent more effectively and match professionals with the right opportunities, ultimately benefiting both the candidates and the companies.

The Talent Outflow and the Challenge of Software Specialization

Billy highlighted a significant challenge faced by the space industry: a talent outflow to the tech sector, citing that in 2022, the space industry lost 11% of its employee base to the tech sector, with only 4% migrating the other way around. He adds that many young and talented software engineers are drawn to tech companies, perceiving aerospace and defence organizations as slow-moving and bureaucratic. The growing complexity of software in aerospace has intensified the demand for software engineers and related roles, with 55,000 recorded vacancies in 2022 in the European space sector alone.

“we’re losing talent almost three times faster to the tech industry than we are bringing it in”

According to Billy, the industry must reevaluate its Employee Value Proposition to address this challenge. While fully remote work might not be feasible due to security-critical missions, for instance, offering greater flexibility, inclusion, and collaboration could attract top talent from other industries. Empowering employees to have a more significant impact on projects and emphasizing the meaningful contributions they can make within the space sector can shift the perception of working in aerospace and defence companies.

The Celestial Search team at the European Space Forum in Brussels. Photo by

The Role of Institutions in Talent Development

Despite the talent outflow challenge, Billy commended Europe’s efforts in fostering the next generation of talent. Initiatives such as ESA’s young graduate training program and strong cooperation among EU space agencies have laid a solid foundation for talent development. However, he argues that addressing the horizontal talent deficit requires both public and private sector involvement- while government institutions can nurture skills and talent, a broader, multi-faceted approach is necessary to retain skilled professionals within the space industry.

By fostering collaboration between academia, industry, and government institutions, Europe can create a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem that fuels innovation and sustains a strong and resilient space industry for the long-term future. Only through concerted efforts and visionary approaches can Europe secure its position in the space race and continue to lead in space exploration and technology.

European Year of Skills

On July 1st, the European Commission presented the European Skills Agenda for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience. This agenda sets ambitious, quantitative objectives for upskilling (improving existing skills) and reskilling (training in new skills) to be achieved within five years. The European Year of Skills (9 May 2023- 8 May 2024) aims to address skills gaps in the European Union and boost the EU skills strategy, which will help reskill people focusing on digital and green technology skills.

dotSPACE reaffirms its drive to the fostering and development of skills and talent, especially in the field of space data. Read about some of our capacity-building activities:

Featured image credit: The European Space Forum

Jerry Yao

Related post