On 26 February 2020, Shoal hosted a networking night for the space industry in Adelaide, where we introduced a discussion around space and the skills needed in our future workforce. This article is written from the speech delivered by Nikita Sardesai, who presented on the future workforce of the space sector.
Space: Future workforce
It’s very well researched what our workforce will look like in the future. There are reports by The Economist and Forbes that talk about digitisation and automation; and how this is going to affect current and future jobs. They say that digital literacy and the ability to adapt to change are some of the most important skills we can have today to enable the future. There is a PwC report that also talks about the impact of globalisation on the future workforce.
We’ve got a smaller world now, which means that we can access a bigger talent pool, but it also enables the employee; they can really select where they want to work. If it aligns with their vision, and causes they believe in. People work now, because they want to – not necessarily because they need to, so the market is getting more competitive in that respect. The industry needs to compete for high quality candidates. Kronos which is a workforce management company have a report stating that millennials will make up 75% of our workforce in 2025, which is only five years away. These individuals are not like their parents, they are very different, they have different needs and desires, and they operate differently in this digital world. They mention something in the report called the hiring half-life, where the average millennial will change jobs within 3 and a half years compared to their parents which changed on average every 7 years, or even Generation X at 6 years.
I thought I would back up this research with conversations with my peers. So, I asked people from Shoal and people outside of Shoal. What came out of those conversations were things about what people value; some people really care about the climate, others about gender diversity in the workforce, and others about outreach into STEM (Science Technology Engineering Maths).
Synthesising all this information, I’d like to present to you a template of the future worker (slide 3). This is Abigail, she could be an archaeologist, an engineer, a lawyer, a social worker, but she works in the future. What we do know about Abigail, is that she is a Digital Native. She grew up with technology and she’s known how to use it from Day 1. Also; she is enabled to utilise her access to consolidated information, when it comes to technology, to have a really defined set of values when it comes to what she believes in (supported by an easier access to a vast amount of information and analyses on current research and topics – not filtered by mainstream news, but sourced from the individuals around the world through lines such as Reddit, Wikipedia, YouTube, etc). It might be the climate; it might be diversity in the workforce. She’s really well networked with her peers.
Abigail works at a company, and is relatively happy, but perhaps is coming up on her hiring half-life, and a new opportunity comes her way. The way that this opportunity is advertised is not necessarily a role description, but rather a skills description. This comes from research from the world economic forum, these are the skills that have been growing the most rapidly in the last ten years. In the future, we will really value cognitive ability, the ability to synthesise information effectively and become comfortable in a complex uncertain environment, social and emotional skills; the ability to communicate well with your peers and understand what they’re saying to you. Technological skills, the ability to keep focused on what is happening in the future and keep up with the cutting edge. This is what industry is asking for, or demanding. But what about what attracts Abigail to this role? Why does she want to work for this new company?
Things she values might be impact, how the company that she’s applying for benefits the world, and how she can see her role in this space benefiting the world. And also empowerment, are they flexible? Do they offer her development opportunities, or do they see her as a person that they can develop? We can control these things today as an industry, and with regards to what we need to look at, the question is twofold. The first one is how can we create these environments so that the Abigails of the future will want to work here, how can we attract and retain Abigail? But also, how can we develop our current engineers and workforce to have the skills that will be essential for the future?
I don’t really know the answer to this, and I think there are many. I’d love to have the conversation with you. But I’d like to touch a little bit on what Shoal does to address these problems. Areas in which we focus are mostly the hiring and development of our staff. A good example is how we hired our five interns that you will hear from soon. We did look at their transcripts, we asked for a video application from a team addressing a complex problem that we set to them. This allowed us to get an insight into their critical thinking ability, their communication presentation and their knowledge of current technologies. Another way we try to address this is by presenting them with opportunities to develop a profile, speaking at this event and also leading our internal meetings.
We have an interesting opportunity for industry to come together and listen to what the next generation has to say, or what our workers of the future have to say.
I’m keen to hear from our interns and our panels about what you think about the world of tomorrow.