Young people’s chances of being able to engage with the UK space industry has been boosted by the announcement of a new scheme.
The UK Space Agency has launched an initiative to help the sector deliver one million engagement activities a year.
The sector generates billions of pounds for the economy and creates around 42,000 jobs.
This means there is a real need to attract more young people to careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem).
As part of the programme more professionals will be recruited to engage with students and inspire young people to take up Stem subjects.
It will provide training and match them up with opportunities in schools and colleges.
Dr Jeremy Curtis, head of education and skills at the UK Space Agency, said: “I would say to industry ‘the solution is in your hands, you need to provide enough opportunities to help young people develop those skills and retain their interest so that they then become your future employees’.
“With this new programme, what we are going to do is help people in the space sector find ways to engage with young people.”
He added that this would not just be through the traditional means of giving presentations, but could include mentoring or setting challenges for science and engineering lessons.
Dr Curtis said: “We believe that by setting a target of doing a million interactions every year with young people that we can really push this hard and get people to buy into a programme so that a whole space community feels it’s their programme.
“It is not just a space agency programme, it is a space community programme that we can all feel proud of.”
British ESA astronaut Tim Peake said: “Space is a fascinating subject that has an incredible capacity to inspire.
“There are an enormous variety of careers available in the space sector and during my mission to the International Space Station I was part of a team of thousands of people working behind the scenes to make it possible.
“As an ambassador for space careers in the UK I have seen the power of professionals sharing their experiences with young people.
“This scheme is a great way of helping those young people take their first steps towards an exciting career in space.”
Stem Ambassadors are volunteers from a broad range of jobs and backgrounds who are passionate about inspiring young people to pursue Stem studies and careers.
The UK Space Agency is providing £125,000 to set up the scheme, and ongoing support to deliver it.
It says the value of the in-kind support from industry is expected to be in excess of £3 million.
The provision will cover all regions of the UK, all ages and attainment levels, and focus especially on under-represented groups such as girls, ethnic minorities and disadvantaged groups.
Dr Graham Turnock, chief executive of the UK Space Agency, said: “We have been working hard to encourage a greater interest and understanding of the amazing array of careers available in space.”
The scheme was announced at the UK Space Conference in Newport, Wales.