NASA Looks to Rebalance Aging Workforce

Article written: 2 Apr , 2009
Updated: 26 Apr , 2016
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NASA has taken action to rebalance its aging workforce, according to Open NASA, a collaborative blog written by NASA employees. The space agency has adopted a policy to have a goal of 50% of all new civil servants hired to be “fresh-out hires,” or be within three years of receiving their degrees. This move comes from discussions from a strategic management group that focused on the long-term effects of NASA’s past hiring practices and the upcoming gap in US human space flight. This is a somewhat of a big move on NASA’s part, which some say is long overdue.

NASA’s aging workforce has long been a focus of discussion. With over thirty percent of the NASA workforce eligible for retirement, it has been widely recognized that the space agency needs to attract a new generation of workers, but also preserve institutional memory. NASA’s Strategic Management Council (SMC) decided that the risk of a shortfall in critical skills is so great, that dramatic action was needed to change these trends.

Not many people leave NASA in any given year, so the agency doesn’t hire many civil servants in one year. However, the average age of NASA is now 47 and yet the average age of their few new hires is just shy of 40. Only 19% of recent hires have been in their 20’s. “It’s been no wonder that the space business continues to age rapidly,” a member of the SMC wrote.

They continued, “If we get close to the 50% fresh-out hiring goal this year, that’ll probably mean more than doubling the number of new people in their 20’s and early 30’s that we hire.”

A hiring experiment run at MSFC this past year showed that applying this policy NASA-wide means the agency’s average age could actually begin to turn around and start to come back down.

NASA is also looking at a number of other actions:

Exploring the possibility of hiring co-op students at NASA Headquarters;

Promote leadership training and identify high-potential candidates;

Ensure Agency-wide consistency and quality of mentoring programs;

Implement new employee rotation programs;

Expand communication technologies;

Institute a business resource management model that provides employees time for innovation;

Motivate employees, e.g. set aside launch tickets for employees, at all levels, at each center;

Source: Open NASA


9 Responses

  1. star grazer says

    I hope the new hires will be the best for NASA.
    NASA may not pay the best, but the new hires
    should think of this like a great mission and a great experience to enjoy during their careers at NASA.

  2. Joe says

    Yet another reason to hate NASA. How narrowminded a view, that age is the determining factor of “freshness”. General Motors hired a couple generations out of GMI – they all thought the same and look were they are.
    NASA will simply hire younger clones from the same mould, just like G.M. Time to pull the funding and invest in private corporations that have a clue. The best ideas don’t come from stogie phd’s.

  3. One Angry Scientist says

    I hear the same argument in the organization where I work. There is a mantra that goes something like, “We need more young people in here.” Age isn’t the issue, in my opinion. The issue is adapting the structure of the workplace/culture to the present circumstance. Goals can still be met regardless of who’s there…so long as the culture is willing to adapt. Systems theory research proves this again and again…

  4. Andrew says

    Odd. I would think that age discrimination is illegal.

  5. star grazer says

    Joe
    One Angry Scientist says:
    The new hires should be given the chance to have their own fresh ideas-if they have to follow the current mantra ‘ well, I’ve been doing things this way for 35 years’ mentality, then Nasa will be a waste!!!! I will fully agree on your agument about this!!!!!

  6. Random63 says

    Younger workers mean cheaper workers…that’s the bottom line. I’m one of those “aging workforce” guys and know that I would rather have a 45 year old engineer working on my system with 20 years experience, then to have some kid fresh out of school with no experience leading the team. I don’t mind them being on the team and gaining experience, but NASA just wants cheaper workers and to hell with the experience!

  7. Silver Thread says

    And in twenty years when those 50% of new hires are 40 and have not decided to Leave NASA, where will NASA be?

    Structure your workforce based on skills not statistics. Is this some form of bastardized affirmative action?

  8. Chet says

    Im sure most of you are those older workforce guys hoping NASA will hire you, well im not saying they wont but everyplace needs new faces and im not saying everybody that gets hired at NASA will be those youngsters fresh out of college but for crying out loud give them a chance they deserve at least that much and im sure NASA isnt stupid enough to make these youngsters team leaders right away im sure they at least need to learn the ropes. So, for all of you older workforce guys bitter about the economy layoff these younger guys and give them a chance.

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