Except for the classical degree in engineering, there are alternative paths of starting a career in space technology.

From the school desk to the clean room

How physical/technical assistants qualify for a job at OHB

Many career paths lead to a job in space technology: a high school diploma and a degree in engineering are the classic requirements for working on space missions. Yet, as the old saying goes, exceptions prove the rule: the best example illustrating this proverb can be seen in OHB employees Jean Lorenz and Corrina Heidmann, who qualified for jobs at OHB after completing a two-year course to become physical/technical assistants even without having a high school diploma or a degree. Lorenz has since advanced to become electrical AIT team leader, a position which gives him responsibility for around 50 employees. Corinna Heidmann joined OHB in 2018, becoming a member of his team. Both are physical/technical assistants, or “PhyTAs” for short. To arouse trainee PhyTAs’ interest in a career in space at OHB as early as possible, Lorenz and Heidmann take a direct course, visiting the Ubremen School Center, where they invite young people to consider a job with OHB and seek to bolster their confidence in their own capabilities.

Never be unemployed again

“I was sitting exactly where you are now 18 years ago,” Jean Lorenz says, breaking the expectant silence. He gazes into the faces of some 20 young men and women, most of whom are around 16 years old. Lorenz sits with his stomach facing the back of the chair, resting his arms on it, eye to eye. “Do you know how fantastic it is for you to be doing this training? And when you complete the course, you’ll never be unemployed again.” Never unemployed? The head of the E-AIT team can clearly explain the reasons for this by citing OHB’s order situation, saying that the company is expanding at break-neck speed and that the world is crying out for more satellites. Even if OHB is awarded only part of the orders for which it has submitted proposals, it will need many specialists to execute these missions. “You are all candidates for these jobs.”

Working directly on the satellite

What makes E-AIT activities so special is the fact that employees work directly on the satellite. “We have a special license to work on the satellite hardware. That means that we very quickly end up handling objects with a value of 20 million euros.” Having decided to embark on an entirely new career at the age of 31 years, Corinna Heidmann also works on the expensive equipment. “I wanted to learn something and develop my own capabilities. The training course was the perfect solution for me. It is composed of five main subjects: electrical engineering, physics, chemistry, metal technology and microcontroller technology.” Before entering the clean room, Corinna Heidmann completed a three-week internship at OHB. After that, it was clear where her journey was headed.

PhyTAs undergo 36 hours of training a week at the Utbremen School Center. Admission requirements are the “Mittlere Reife” school diploma and a grade 3 or better in mathematics and science. “We are interested in working closely with business,” says teacher Marko Mehrtens, who initiated OHB’s visit. And indeed successfully, as the ensuing question-and-answer session shows, going way overtime as it does. The students are highly interested in a job in space technology with OHB. How are satellites disposed of? How much can I earn at OHB? What is done in the clean room? How dangerous is cosmic radiation? One hour becomes two.

Passion for space technology

In conclusion, Jean Lorenz once again encourages young people to show confidence in their own abilities. “Stick with it. It’s not top grades that count but how passionate and motivated you are about a career in space technology. You can do it! See it through to the end, as we need you!” 

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