potential employees, but also how it may be perceived by the institutions that provide the employees, such as university engineering and science departments and university-based institutions. Students’ career paths are shaped by their advisors, and if the advisors perceive NASA to be a bad career choice, this will affect their students’ decisions. As one workshop participant noted, if prospective employees believe that they lack assurance that the space exploration vision is stable enough for them to build a substantial portion of their career working for it, then the situation is unstable.
Key vacancies need to be open for competition (thereby creating an environment that encourages and facilitates the movement of NASA employees into industry for developmental work experience assignments, the movement of industry employees into NASA where they can mentor NASA employees, and the subsequent return of these employees to their original institutions). NASA and industry need to be properly matching applicants and vacancies, providing reasonable assurance of upward mobility and quality training, and properly identifying internal solutions to vacancies.
Recruitment will be influenced by whether NASA and industry can properly identify required skills in advance. Whether the workforce has reliable feeder programs and whether feeder programs can help respond to identified needs will have an impact. Paying the appropriate level of attention, expanding the diversity of the workforce, and recruiting from underrepresented populations will be especially important. Furthermore, the extent to which the industry is attracting elite workers will have a feedback effect on recruitment.
Key factors include the ability to pay competitive salaries, maintain employees’ sense of usefulness, prepare employees for future contributions in addition to current contributions, listen to inputs from employees, provide mentors and training, including hands-on experience development opportunities, and explicitly facilitate the transfer of know-how from senior to younger employees.
Although constraints imposed by ITAR may lead to a higher demand for U.S. citizens and permanent residents in NASA’s workforce than might be the case in other employment sectors, international participation in space exploration will still have a significant impact. For example, the workforce for NASA will be influenced by what skills, jobs, and salaries are being provided by foreign partners and how completely those are integrated with domestic equivalents.