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.”
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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