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Don’t forget older workers to fix talent shortage

One of the space industry’s most respected figures has urged the sector to target older workers from rival industries to fix its skills shortages.

Anntonette Dailey told the Space Connect Podcast there is a “whole heap” of employees already in middle management, and STEM qualified who could make the switch.

It comes weeks after the head of the Australian Space Agency (ASA), Enrico Palermo, revealed the industry has now grown to 17,000, but will likely need tens of thousands more before the end of the decade.

Dailey also urged the sector to continue to try to attract more women into the industry to help alleviate a shortage of core staff.


“I remember being at university helping out on women in engineering activities,” she said. And back then, I think women counted for 10 per cent. And 15 years later, that number has only increased to 13 or 14 per cent.

“There is good work and goodwill out there, but it’s not seeming to break through the barriers, which is why the government is trying to do a full review.

“But to do, you need to be able to see. And that’s why it’s lovely to see lots of women now being very proactive and taking on that extra role of promoting why women should join the STEM sector.

Dailey is currently a board member for Defence Council Victoria but has previously held roles at the Bureau of Meteorology and the ASA, developing its Space Discovery Centre.


“Some interesting stats, but 16 per cent of the Australian STEM workforce are women. And our First Nations people represent less than 6 per cent.

“And seeing those numbers is quite disheartening because they deliver capabilities and services to Australia. And Australia needs to know that the people designing and creating those have a full understanding of the Australian culture and can utilise that technology there.

“Women only make up 37 per cent of enrolments at universities. And I did a bit of a check and through the Department of Industry confirmed that CEOs in STEM roles that are women make up less than 8 per cent.

“And that’s definitely a sign that things can change and something that we can be part of.

“What do I think? I was trying to grapple with this issue when designing the Australian Space Discovery Centre. Do you target young people? Do you target the four-year-olds? Do you target the mums and dads?

“And in the end, we decided to target that age group making decisions on their careers around the 11 to 25-year-old cohort. And the one thing that I’ve loved seeing at the Space Discovery Centre that has worked so well is that the mum and dads come across. And if there’s anybody that’s so important in influencing a young person or other people’s lives, it is their family.”

You can listen to the full podcast episode above, or on your device here.

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

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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