This is ground control: Cadets wanted as space engineers

Artists impression of military satellite The space sector has a huge impact on everyday life

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Apprentices are being invited to take one giant leap for mankind and sign up for elite space engineering training.

The first degree-level apprenticeship in the field is being launched by Skills Minister Matthew Hancock at the National Space Centre in Leicester.

The programme aims to encourage more scientists and engineers into the UK's space industry, expected to be worth £30bn in the next two decades.

The Royal Astronomical Society says this demand is not currently being met.

Loughborough College, the National Space Academy and the University of Leicester will provide the education for the programme and the space industry will employ the trainees.

Skills mix

Mr Hancock said: "Ahead of National Apprenticeship Week, I would like to encourage young people to think about a career in this stimulating and fast-moving sector. I'm sure there will be opportunities for apprentices working in this sector to be involved in some innovative and exciting projects."

He also said he wanted it to be the "new norm for young people" to choose between university and an apprenticeship.

Dr Martin Killeen, head of technology at Loughborough College, said: "Significant issues have been identified regarding graduates emerging from university without the skills mix required for space engineering. We have worked extensively with the space industry to develop our higher apprenticeship programme to ensure it combines both the work-based skills and the knowledge which meet employers' needs."

Anu Ojha, director of the National Space Academy education programmes, added: "The space sector is growing rapidly and needs highly skilled technicians in a number of engineering disciplines if it to sustain that growth.

"The higher apprenticeship in space engineering is a brilliant initiative. The National Space Academy looks forward to working with Loughborough College and helping provide space companies with highly employable, rounded people with an academically rigorous vocational qualification."

The space sector has a huge impact on everyday life, and is showing significant growth despite the economic downturn.

It is being driven by increasing demand from consumers for satellite TV and radio, mobile phone services, GPS navigation and from the government for emergency services and security, for air traffic management or to monitor climate change.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills says this demand will lead to continued and sustained growth between now and 2030.

The announcement comes ahead of a speech by Education Michael Gove on Monday, in which he is expected to encourage more businesses to take part in apprenticeship training programmes.

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