To infinity … and beyond…. new apprentice training opportunity really is out of this world

Space apprenticeship

If you ever thought (and shame on you if you did), that apprenticeships weren’t a sexy way into an amazing career, think again.

Apprentices in England will soon be able to study to infinity and beyond, thanks to a new Government-backed space engineering apprenticeship.

Launching in January 2021, the Space Engineering Technician apprenticeship will help young people gain the technical skills needed for a career in space and follows a successful collaboration between the Swindon-headquartered UK Space Agency, Airbus and the University of Leicester.

The UK space sector is hungry for engineers and technologists who understand the demands that come with working in space, and over the next decade the sector aims to create 30,000 jobs. This new opportunity will offer students, for the first time, the chance to focus on topics like spacecraft manufacturing; building skills in design, problem solving and testing.

The UK space industry has trebled in size since 2000, outperforming the global space economy and enjoys a 5.1 per cent share of the total market (equivalent to £14.8 billion).

The UK’s expertise in satellite innovation and manufacturing has led to a thriving research and development network, which is able to support any size of investor.

The UK’s Spaceflight Programme, LaunchUK, aims to establish commercial vertical and horizontal small satellite launch from UK spaceports. This will support the government’s aim of growing the UK’s global market share of the space sector to 10 per cent by 2030.

The government’s vision is for the UK to be at the global forefront of small satellite launch and emerging space transportation markets, capable of facilitating a range of commercial spaceflight activities, including small satellite and suborbital launch from the early 2020s.

Currently, apprentices training in space roles gain qualifications as general apprentices and craft apprentices.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “This new qualification is an incredible opportunity for young people which will equip them with the vital skills they need to help unlock the secrets of our solar system.

“The UK’s space industry is booming, and these new apprentices will become the next generation of engineers that will help us achieve our country’s space ambitions.”

The Space Engineering Technician apprenticeship is the first to be recognised by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) and approved by The Department of Education. The first cohort of students is expected to start their training from January 2021.

The success of establishing this level 4 apprenticeship has paved the way for the development of a degree equivalent (level 6) space engineering diploma which is expected to be available to students from next September.

The University of Leicester has played an integral role in designing the new apprenticeship. Dr Nigel Bannister, Associate Professor in the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “From large multinationals to small enterprises, companies in the UK are at the forefront of the commercial space revolution – it is therefore essential that the right training is offered for future recruits into the industry.

“The international space sector is undergoing a major transformation as space becomes more accessible, and this new standard enables employers to recruit people with the skills needed to grow their business and ensure their workforce is trained in the latest technologies and techniques.”

Richard Franklin, Managing Director of Airbus Defence and Space in the UK said: “Four years ago, we looked at how we could design and develop a space technician qualification that would enable students to gain specific engineering skills in space manufacturing.

“Working in partnership with the UK Space Agency and the University of Leicester we have created the Space Engineering Technician apprenticeship. This is an exciting new route into space and helps the Government achieve its ambitions – whether that’s the next mission to Mars or helping to build Earth observation satellites to monitor climate change.”

BAE Systems PLC, Thales Alenia Space UK, Nammo Westcott Ltd, Reaction Engines Ltd, STFC RAL Space, United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and Oxford Space Systems have supported the process to allow over 900 space sector companies access to the qualification.

The UK space sector is thriving, generating an income of £14.8 billion, employing 42,000 people and supporting a further £300 billion of economic activity through the use of satellite services.