In summary

  • The Australian Space Agency is calling on the nation’s network of TAFEs to create ‘space tradies’ 
  • Space trades needed now and into the future include precision welding, circuits and electronics, metal fabricators and more
  • Becoming a space tradie might be easier than you think  

The Australian Space Agency is calling on the nation’s network of TAFEs to create ‘space tradies’ to further develop Australia’s space industry. ASA boss Enrico Palermo recently spoke about the need for space apprentices and called on the government and the nation’s TAFEs to address the burgeoning need.   

That all sounds out of this world, but what exactly is a space tradie? 

If we are to buy into Elon Musk’s very wild vision that we will soon be living on Mars, you might be thinking space tradies will be needed to provide all types of trade services – but in a zero gravity environment. But for our more immediate future, space tradies will keep their feet firmly cemented on the ground as they build the launch facilities – which require round-the-clock maintenance – and the machines that travel to outer space.  

Well this gives a whole new meaning to ‘smoko’ Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash  

Which trades are predicted to grow to meet the space manufacturing demand?  

Director of Swinburne’s Space Technology and Industry Institute Professor Alan Duffy and his Centre for Astrophysics colleagues Dr Rebecca Allen and Dr Sara Webb are leaders in space education at Swinburne. 

They say, ‘For building satellites and rockets we need tradies skilled in precision welding techniques, intricate wiring and assembly of circuits and electronics, and of course experience in delivering delicate or difficult pieces of equipment and components.’  

See some of these trades on offer at Swinburne.  

Precision welding techniques, and electronics are just some of the trades skills needed for Australia’s expanding space industry. Photo by Russ Ward on Unsplash  

Space trades: it is rocket science (and the skills are transferable)  

Space tradespeople, just like their earth counterparts, will need to be meticulous in their craft. As for job perks, imagine being able to enjoy the flexibility of choosing between projects destined to remain here on the ground, as well as those set for higher places. In other words, many of the skills are transferable.  

Alan, Rebecca and Sara say, ‘When it comes to building Australia’s space facilities such as launchpads, as well as launch support services, these projects require trades similar to any large infrastructure projects – meaning mechanics, electricians, plumbers, heavy machine operators, metal fabricators and more.’  

As a space tradie, you could apply your skills to build rocket launch facilities or even components of the rockets themselves. Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash 

How do you actually become a space tradie?  

Thinking a career as a space tradie could be for you? Alan, Rebecca and Sara (and probably the entire crew at the Australian Space Agency) are all thrilled to hear it.  

If, for example, you’re currently undertaking a boilermaker apprenticeship, or already working as one, do you need to upskill or retrain for space? According to our experts, no. But being affiliated with a university with a dedicated Space Industry and Technology Institute should help.   

If you’ve already got a trade under your belt, Alan, Rebecca and Sara advise checking LinkedIn to see what’s on offer. They say, ‘It’s always amazing to see the jobs lists by companies like SpaceX and the amount of skilled tradespeople needed!’  

Yet to gain a trade? Why not browse our trades and learn more about space manufacturing at Swinburne.  

Will I have to move to the United States for work? 

According to our experts, you could if you wanted to, but you won’t have to. And that’s because Australia’s space industry is growing. According to Sara, Australia’s position near the equatorial line is advantageous. The closer you are to the equator, the faster the surface of the earth travels. That means spacecraft launched from near the equatorial line travels faster, too. ‘Being near the equator, more so in the north of Australia, is important in terms of being able to launch rockets because you’re able to do it with a lot less fuel and a lot less money and effort.’  

Need more evidence of confidence in our local space industry? You only need to look to companies like Gilmour Space and Australia’s contributions to the lunar rover.  

Time to gain a trade?  

Swinburne’s Trades, Engineering and Technology department offer quality apprenticeships to all the key trades needed now and into the future.  

Jane Clancy, Manager of Building Trades says, ‘We teach our apprentices the skills to build our vital infrastructure needed today, but these critical skills will last a lifetime. The opportunity to leverage from Swinburne’s Space Technology and Industry Institute and be involved from the ground up – the sky is the limit for our plumbers, carpenters and electricians!’  

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