Recommendations

Our recommendations for both NASA and the contractors include:

The purpose of  increased public relations and advertising would be to increase the number of young people considering engineering studies and to increase congressional support for the aerospace contract.

Key characteristics include:

Better publicity for the space program in general will help inform the general public about the usefulness of the program not only to their daily lives but in keeping America competitive in the international marketplace.  By affecting public opinion NASA can help increase the number of taxpayers who are vocal to their representatives about funding the space program.  Without congressional support of the program the funding will be decreased, salaries will continue to go down and more engineers will turn to other professions.

In addition, new students entering the profession will be discouraged at low starting salaries and choose more lucrative jobs.  Better promotion of the aerospace industry will also encourage young people still in school to consider engineering as a career.  Many students today do not know what an engineer is or what the job entails.

Better paying jobs attract more employees and keep them.  We can see no disadvantages to this plan except an inital cost which must fall on the contractors.  However the recent success of such efforts this past year and the small but significant increase in NASA funding has directly correlated to more jobs and asmall increase in salaries.  Based on the National Science Funding research most Americans receive their news through television, the media, newspapers and through their computers.  Therefore the more effective use of public relations via the media and through the pubic library system for example (where many people use computers, read and rent videos) can only help to increase public support of the program.

The purpose of incentive programs is to motivate employees to remain loyal to an employer and encourage them to perform at a high level and not consider options to leave.  Key characteristics of incentive recommendations include:

More incentive program will help attract new employees and hopefully help to retain them.  It is hard to compete with the Silicon Valley and Austin incentive packages but there are certain things that only NASA can offer such as experiential privileges (such as launch invitations, simulators rides, etc.) that could be quite attractive to the right employee.  One engineer interviewed noted that after over 20 years of service to the shuttle program they had never seen a launch but had recieved many meaningless plaques.  One of the major causes identified for engineers choosing other companies to work for or leaving NASA was the lack of incentives (as well as competitive salary).  It has been proved through research that companies that offer incentive packages tailored to their employees can help to reduce or eliminate turnover and can also attract new employees.  Disadvantages to this solution is the cost involved and thus is remains second on the list after efforts to increase NASA funding.

The purpose of creating educational programs for young people is to build an awareness of the profession of engineering and an interest in the space program.  Continuing education programs for employees will help employees keep current in their field and also can in some cases engender a sense of loyalty to the company that helps them to achieve.

Key characteristics of education initiatives include:

NASA's Johnson Space Center is currently taking steps to use human space flight to motivate and encourage students and teachers at all levels.  For example: However, while many students are thus exposed to and encouraged to consider engineering majors and careers, many co-ops when offered jobs at NASA and with aerospace contractors still choose other companies because of more competitive salaries. Congressional funding determines the competitiveness of salaries funded by NASA and NASA dependent contractors.  General awareness in the community of what an engineer is and does, and how important engineers are to keeping the US competitive internationally is still under promoted.  NASA is unable to use public relations as effectively in promoting itís own programs as it cannot advertise, however it can use education television and education programs to increase the level of awareness in the U.S.  Contractors however are not restricted in their use of advertising and also not as restricted in their salary offers for incoming workers.

How are all of these recommendations related?  Public relations will help to increase public support which will in turn help to increase funding.  This will directly correlate into more money for ebtter salaries and incentives.  It will also build awareness of the profession and encourage more students to consider engineering and aerospace.  These students and their teachers will get involved in more related educational programs designed to continue to support this interest.  Better salaries will entice more graduates to choose these jobs.  More incentives including continuing education will help to retain employees. All of which will result in a better product and more productivity which will of course be able to be used for better PR and thus the cycle is complete. But how to get the public excited about the space program?  Since the Challenger disaster this has been one of NASA's great missions.

The space program is currently in a phase of lower esteem than in years past. Although the success of the Mars Pathfinder mission brought a great deal of interest to the program, the failure of the last two missions has undermined that enthusiasm somewhat.  The country could benefit from a major, technical project reminiscent of the race to the Moon in the 1960's.  Americans had little problem supporting the space program at that time and the number of students graduating with engineering degrees skyrocketed.  Perhaps Americans tend to prefer that competitive edge over that of international cooperation, and perhaps something more dramatic is needed to hold their attention and drive their desire to explore.  Sending humans to Mars may likely be that magic bullet.

Back to Table of Contents