PICAYUNE — A subject that is breached quite frequently with many of my contacts in industry is the aging workforce. Prior to the great recession, many companies were preparing themselves for what some have termed the "baby boomer effect." These companies were preparing for the effect that the losses of large amounts of human capital (i.e. skilled workers) would have on their company or industry. Of course the recession cooled down these conversations, but the conversation is heating up again.
According to Department of Labor statistics, the American workforce contains over 75 million baby boomers. A whopping 10,000 of these are turning 65 years of age every day. For good or bad, the poor economic conditions caused by the recession forced many of these boomers to put off retirement. Now the economy has built back to pre-recession numbers. Suddenly all of these people that already passed up their targeted retirement age, and those that reach their target age daily, are making plans for their golden years.
What will this do the education landscape? First of all, it is imperative that school age children are introduced to what I call the "world of work." It takes a lot of different skill sets to keep this world moving as smoothly as society likes. Yes, there will always be a need for doctors, lawyers, engineers and nurses. But what about the high voltage utility line worker that keeps electrical current supplied to our homes and businesses? Or the heavy equipment operator that keeps our roads and highways surfaced so that we can travel safely to and fro?
The point here is that are a lot of very important occupations defined as medium skilled occupations. Many seeking to begin a career are not aware of some of these occupations and how attractive these are as career options.
Medium skilled occupations require more than a high school diploma, but less than a baccalaureate degree. The credentials for these mid skill jobs are typically attained at a community college. Unfortunately, the demand for these middle skill jobs is outpacing supply. There are not enough people entering these types of occupations causing some imbalance in labor markets. There are approximately 3 million job openings for middle skilled workers in the US economy, but not enough qualified applicants to fill them.
If we are to counter the "baby boomer effect," we will have to provide students a very real lesson about the "world of work."