Updated 2:36 p.m. ET
With the end of the Space Shuttle program growing closer, many of the contractors working for NASA could soon be blasting off into new careers across the federal government.
President Obama last year promised about $40 million for job-retraining programs and other initiatives to help about 6,000 contractors working with NASA on Space Shuttle-related programs at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center who will lose their jobs when shuttle missions conclude this summer.
Another 1,200 NASA employees working on the shuttles will be reassigned to new space vehicle programs as part of the Obama administration’s efforts to remake the Space agency.
The president has pledged to re-create NASA’s human space exploration program by scrapping the Bush-era Constellation Program in favor of providing federal dollars for privately funded space vehicles. The White House calls its plan “bold and daring,” but a bipartisan group of lawmakers and veteran astronauts are concerned the plans will severely impact the aerospace industry and cede U.S. space dominance to Russia, China and the Europeans.
The political and budgetary debate aside, federal agencies with openings for engineers, IT specialists, program managers, technicians, transportation specialists and administrative personnel are being asked to advertise their needs at JobsforAerospaceWorkers.com, a site established by NASA and Florida economic officials. Job postings should start appearing on the new site this week, but they will also appear on the government’s USAJobs.gov Web site for other applicants, according to OPM.
OPM’s press shop had few details to share, but a NASA spokeswoman in Florida said the program should help those contractors eagerly seeking work in their fields.
At its height, about 8,000 contractors with the United Space Alliance worked on the shuttle program and many are eligible for retirement and unlikely to seek new jobs, according to the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE).
“This entire program is going to connect the talented contractor workforce with other high-tech government jobs across the country,” said Leland Stone, president of IFPTE Local 30. “We fully support this as a very good thing, because these people are highly skilled and just because the Shuttle program is retiring, doesn’t mean they should be scattered to the wind. We should harness those employees into the federal government if there are openings.”
IFTPE represents about 8,000 NASA workers and none of the contractors, but fought to ensure the government would try recruiting them into full-time federal jobs, Stone said.
Space Shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to blast off en route to the International Space Station on April 29 with Mark Kelly, husband of wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), is slated to command the mission. The final NASA shuttle mission will be conducted by Space Shuttle Atlantis and is scheduled to begin on June 28.
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