What Will Happen to the Workforce When the Baby Boomers Retire?

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FAN9015298With the STEM skills gap being an ongoing topic of discussion and concern for employers and employees alike, little attention has been given to the issue of another type of skills gap: the vocational skills gap. This gap will inevitably spike in the next 10-15 years as a result of the baby boomer workforce generation retiring in larger numbers. As Millennials and younger generations begin to take hold of the majority of today’s workforce, the STEM skills gap won’t account for the only growing void in skill sets. Our infographic provides insight on which skilled trade jobs will feel the most impact from baby boomer retirement and how to ensure these gaps are filled.

As of July 2014, there are a recorded 6,041,000 construction jobs in the U.S., 12,160,000 jobs in manufacturing, and as of 2013, there were 258,630 U.S. jobs in mechanical engineering. These positions spiked as the United States first began to develop into the nation it is today, and the majority of these jobs today are filled by members of the Baby Boomer generation. Today, the majority of Millennials seek out jobs in health, business, media, and science and technology. This tendency for younger generations to seek out non-labor careers is one that isn’t expected to decline. With this evidence, the labor industries will inevitably face a large skills gap in the potentially near future. As Baby Boomers begin to retire more rapidly and younger generations continue to seek out jobs that are unrelated to labor-intensive work, the question remains: who will replace these employees?

The data for this shortage continues to pile up: “Construction employers added 6,000 workers to payrolls in June as the industry’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.2 percent, its lowest June level in six years,” according to an analysis of new government data by the Associated General Contractors of America, and a recent survey of 1,600 manufacturing companies in the U.S. “shows that nearly half have openings for line workers, skilled trade workers, and engineers, but many have trouble filling the positions.” Moreover, a significant 62 percent of firms today struggle to fill important skilled labor positions, and 74 percent of firms predict a shortfall of qualified skilled trade workers, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. The widening skill gap is, of course, terrible for business: 32 percent of manufacturers who make over $1 billion estimate they will lose over $100 million as a result of the loss of baby boomers over the next 5 years.

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To combat this growing issue, up-and-coming job seekers may consider adapting to meet the needs of the labor industry, which will continue to suffer from the retirement of its workforce for the foreseeable future unless the skills gap is addressed.

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Contributor

Claire Topalian is a writer, non-profit Communications professional, and advocate for diversity in business. She currently leads Communications and the Startup Women initiative at UP Global, an international non-profit that builds startup communities through educational programs and events. You can follow her on Twitter @clairetopalian.

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