Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Key Workforce Challenge: Aging Workforce and Looming Retirements

The aging workforce and looming baby boomer retirements were an almost forgotten issue during the recession. Falling home values and decimated nest eggs forced many older workers to delay their retirement plans for a few years. Now the oldest of the baby boomers are reaching full retirement age and leaving the workforce. Their retirements could leave holes in the workforces of some industries, occupations, and counties. Effectively replacing the coming wave of retirees is one of the key workforce challenges facing Oregon.

Oregon appears to have enough workers to replace the retiring baby boomers - but does the state have enough workers with the right skills and experience to fill their shoes? This could be particularly problematic in fast-growing industries like health care. New jobs created in growing industries paired with fewer experienced workers to replace those who retire could create hiring difficulties for some employers. 

The pace of coming retirements will vary depending on the industry sector. For instance, utilities and mining have a high concentration of older boomers, but they employ a relatively small number of workers and will require relatively few replacement workers. The industries that stand out in sheer size and share of workers 55 and over are health care and social assistance (both private and public) and educational services (again, both private and public). Employers in these and in all other industries need to plan for how they are going to attract replacement workers, especially for jobs that require significant training.

Employers that have one or two (or one or two hundred) key employees who are approaching retirement age should consider the skills that will walk out the door with that final punch of the time clock. While equivalent degrees and education can be hired through other workers by offering the right wage, specialized knowledge about a certain business, product, or service can only be gained with hands-on experience, and that experience leaves when a long-time employee retires. Employers need to find replacements and instill them with company-specific know-how before the baby boomers decide it's time to retire en force.

For more information on this key workforce challenge, you can read the full article, or contact co-authors Nick Beleiciks and Gail Krumenauer. 

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