In education, the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress exams show that ##. fourth- and eighth-grade students are showing improvement in mathematics, though less than half achieve at or above the level deemed proficient. According to the most recent international examinations, the ## remains in the middle of the pack among major space nations with regard to mathematics performance, with ## and ## leading.
Just as the United States measures progress in early mathematics and science proficiency, other nations also track student progress. Many of these countries, including the United States, participate in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) evaluation process.
The worldwide space sector employs hundreds of thousands of skilled workers who require high levels of education and competency. To maintain this workforce over time, space employers require a steady supply of trained workers capable of performing tasks in key scientific and engineering disciplines.
In 2010, the global space workforce continued to weather the effects of the global financial crisis, recession, and ongoing economic uncertainty with relative resiliency. Declines in American space employment caused hardship but were relatively small compared to the overall global space workforce.
STEM achievement in primary and secondary schools is an indicator of how well the United States is ensuring that students are later prepared to pursue STEM degrees, enabling them to enter the space workforce. Every two years, the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) uses standardized tests to rate the mathematics and science proficiency of fourth- and eighth-grade students.
Both the government and industry space sectors in the United States show a high demand for STEM-educated professionals. As of December 2011, ## of NASA’s ## employees—##% of its civil servant workforce—worked in STEM-related fields, mainly as professionals working in engineering, mathematics, biological and physical sciences, or medicine.
There is a broad consensus that high-quality STEM education is critical to producing a workforce capable of maintaining a competitive edge in numerous technological areas, including space. However, space leaders, elected officials, and government agencies in the United States have frequently expressed concerns that the supply of potential new STEM workers is not adequate to meet future demands.
In the United States, NASA continues to be a significant source of demand for new space professionals. Over the past five years, NASA has hired more than ## new science and engineering employees. To balance out its aging workforce, NASA has set a target that ##% of all new civil servant hires be “fresh out” of college, whether at a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree level.
Considered together, recent NASA and U.S. aerospace company hiring statistics indicate that there is a combined demand for thousands of new S&E workers each year in the United States, a growing proportion of whom are aged 35 or less. These new hires will most likely need at least a bachelor’s degree, and many will require either a master’s or doctoral degree.
Nations around the world recognize the potential of space activity to create high-paying jobs, enable new industries and technologies, increase national competitiveness, and add value to the economy. Building for a future that envisions their increasing participation in space, countries are responding with notable human capital investments that combine traditional models of space education with emerging new approaches.