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NASA faces shortage of young workers

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Lifer
Jan 7, 2002
12,755
1
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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. ? Martin Hayes embodies the future of NASA.

The 25-year-old black engineer is young, intelligent, innovative and inspired by President Bush?s plan to send humans back beyond Earth orbit.

Problem is, Hayes is one of few ?fresh-outs? (a relatively new college graduate) in an aging NASA work force. Instead, the space agency?s labor pool is overloaded with people who will soon be eligible to retire.

A pipeline once filled with American science and engineering graduates is shrinking. Students no longer see the aerospace industry as a choice career path. Higher-paying private sector jobs are alluring, and interest in federal service is declining.

Together, those factors raise serious questions about NASA?s ability to recruit and retain a new generation of scientists, engineers and technologists needed to send astronauts back to the moon by 2020 and then on to Mars years after that.

?We have an immediate challenge right now,? NASA administrator Sean O?Keefe said, adding the agency faces a difficult and ?very dynamic, demographic kind of (work force) adjustment? to meet the Bush mandate.

?You can be assured that this is a critical issue for the future of NASA and the future of this mission,? added former Air Force Secretary Edward ?Pete? Aldridge, who heads a presidential commission overseeing NASA planning for the moon-Mars initiative.

A Florida Today analysis of NASA records shows the severity of the situation:

* Nearly 40 percent of the 18,146 people at NASA are age 50 or older. Those with 20 years of government service are eligible for early retirement.

* Twenty-two percent of NASA workers are 55 or older. Those with 30 years of service are eligible for full retirement benefits.

* NASA employees over 60 outnumber those under 30 by a ratio of about 3 to 1.

* A scant 4 percent of workers are under 30.

The better part of a quarter of NASA?s work force is eligible to retire in the next five years, said Vicki Novak, NASA?s assistant administrator for human resources.

Longtime agency observers say recruiting and retaining talent was not a problem for NASA during the red-hot Apollo moon-landing project of the 1960s.

The predicament began in the 1990s, when the agency slashed a 24,000-member work force to cut costs. A lengthy hiring freeze cut the number of under-30 workers from 3,078 ? 13 percent of workers ? to its current level: 767, or 4 percent.

Hayes, a 2000 graduate of Tuskegee University, said the hiring freeze created a ?generation gap? within NASA.

?It?s only been the last three or four years that they?ve really gotten back to hiring fresh-outs,? the Kennedy Space Center propellant systems engineer said. ?So naturally, there are not that many people of my generation that are here with me.?

A potential exodus of middle-age employees could exacerbate NASA?s work-force woes. The president?s executive order calls for NASA?s shuttle fleet to be retired in 2010 after construction of the International Space Station is complete ? a troubling prospect for those involved in either or both projects for entire careers.

?We need to make sure the skills are there all the way out to the last flight,? Kennedy Space Center?s deputy director Woodrow Whitlow said.

Bush has signed into law legislation that gives NASA unprecedented flexibility in managing its work force. The agency is also in the midst of a top-to-bottom, talk-to-everybody, recruiting road show.

When Hayes goes back to his alma mater to pitch for NASA federal service, he?ll talk about job security along with good health and retirement benefits, not to mention the cool quotient associated with working at NASA.

?I?m going to lift up the new vision and the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of this new exploration initiative,? Hayes said, ?emphasizing how possible it is for us to do what the president is talking about ? going to Mars.?


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Eli

Super Moderator | Elite Member
Super Moderator
Oct 9, 1999
50,425
6
81
Interesting.

Don't think this will end up being a bad thing, though.
 

Shockwave

Banned
Sep 16, 2000
9,059
0
0
I've checked the Nasa webpage almost religiously for years to get a job. If they maybe LISTED some of these jobs they need so badly.....
And lets be honest, the cool jobs they dont have to list. Everyone, EVERYONE has wanted to be an astronaut. Dont freakin list astronaut as a job opening. IT jobs? Non existent. They do list a handful of R&D based jobs, but this isnt my area.

Now, the possibility does exist I just cant find them.... But considering I've built and supported parts of their network in the past, if I could FIND a job in their IT I would probably be qualified.....
Ah well, heres to hoping someday.... :beer:
 

DanTMWTMP

Lifer
Oct 7, 2001
15,909
12
81
interesting....EE major equals me.....i really dig networks, knw some dsp, (of course i knw circuits, but i hate it..lol)...

my gpa's shot to hell though....i probably don't have a chance..hehe
 

sciencewhiz

Diamond Member
Jun 30, 2000
5,884
8
81
Not just NASA, but most (if not all of) the Aerospace companies are realizing this. Raytheon is hiring a lot of extra recent college grads, as is Northrup.

Dan, I know someone who works at JPL, and he has his master's from UCLA, and he gets looked down on because it's just UCLA, not MIT or CalTech. If you don't have a stellar GPA, or a stellar post college record, you won't work for NASA.
 

Shockwave

Banned
Sep 16, 2000
9,059
0
0
Originally posted by: sciencewhiz
Not just NASA, but most (if not all of) the Aerospace companies are realizing this. Raytheon is hiring a lot of extra recent college grads, as is Northrup.

Dan, I know someone who works at JPL, and he has his master's from UCLA, and he gets looked down on because it's just UCLA, not MIT or CalTech. If you don't have a stellar GPA, or a stellar post college record, you won't work for NASA.
Which is a damn shame.
High GPA =! Good job performance

 

rh71

No Lifer
Aug 28, 2001
52,644
846
126
If I were better at the sciences, I'd work for them. I love that stuff and believe in it.
 

IshmaelLeaver

Golden Member
Feb 19, 2001
1,519
0
0
Actually, this is the case across the board for federal agencies. About half of the government will retire in 5 years or so.
 

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