Speaking ahead of her appearance at the Australian Space Summit in May, Julie Autuly said the sector should tailor the narrative to its audiences, including high school students and university graduates, alongside employees in other industries with transferable skills.
“We are stuck in that narrative of ‘astronauts in space are cool, so come and do that with us’,” she said. “But it’s not working, nor is it gathering enough people. Not everyone wants to be an astronaut.”
Instead, Autuly, who is the head of space tech at Cicada Innovations, urged the industry to tailor the narrative to its audiences, including school students, graduates, and those with transferable skills.
“For example, there is a huge sustainability aspect to a space career that we’re not pushing. People who are interested in solving problems on Earth, including climate change, could play a role, but we don’t really push that forward.”
Autuly added she finds working in Earth observation, climate monitoring, and Earth science appealing.
“I love how we can see and monitor everything and improve and take care of Earth.”
Highlighting these opportunities could also attract a more diverse workforce (including female and Indigenous leaders), but this requires pushing those representatives onto the national stage, Autuly said.
“Seeing them and hearing those voices will hopefully encourage others to take that step.”
Autuly will also use her experience at Cicada Innovations — which provides incubators for deep tech start-ups and offers custom labs and offices, and specialist events — to provide top strategies for start-ups and scale-ups to thrive in space.
Recruiting experienced candidates from overseas is an ongoing challenge, Autuly said, as they must obtain a defence clearance, for which they must be Australian citizens.
“There are many overseas candidates that could fill the space skills gap, but it’s tough for companies to get the support they need from immigrants.
“I think there’s this disconnect between the skills shortage we face and the conditions for qualifying for those jobs. We need to look at how we could ease the process for overseas candidates to work in Australia.”
Also challenging is luring qualified Australians who have migrated overseas and accumulated experience back to Australia, especially because the domestic space industry is still nascent compared to its global counterparts.
“There is a lot of work to be done there. This is not going to be fixed in a few years. It could take over a decade to have a system that’s working.
“Remember that we’re competing with other industries that are also in their early stages. So, the question is, how do we differentiate space to attract more people?
“That comes back to how we can effectively inspire people to enter the sector.”
To hear more from Julie Autuly about how start-ups could thrive in the space industry, how to recruit and retain female and Indigenous Australia, and how to address the labour shortages, come along to the Australian Space Summit 2023.
It will be held on Wednesday, 17 May, at ICC, Sydney.
Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.
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