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'Perfect Storm' on Horizon for U.S. Labor Market

By John Venator, CompTIA
July 10, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld -

The pending convergence of two demographic trends has the potential to create a "perfect storm" for employers across the U.S.

The U.S. workforce, and the nation's population as a whole, is aging. By 2010, nearly one in three U.S. workers will be over the age of 50.

By 2012, more than 21 million new jobs are expected to be created in the U.S. economy. In that time, however, just 17 million new workers will enter the labor pool. Shortages of qualified workers are projected across many industries, including IT.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that demand for IT professionals will grow nearly 50% by 2012, with more than 1.5 million new computer- and IT-related job openings. But the U.S. will have only half that many qualified graduates as a result of the declining number of students enrolling in math and science courses.

In May, the Government Accountability Office released a study that found that the proportion of postsecondary students obtaining degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics has fallen significantly. In 1994 and 1995, 32% of postsecondary students obtained degrees in these fields. That figure fell to 27% in 2003 and 2004.

Competition for talent is likely to increase significantly in the next five to 10 years. Shortages of nurses and other health care professionals have been widely publicized. The same is true for teachers. Many organizations could lose experienced talent in key roles ranging from leadership and sales to certain technical and professional disciplines and many skilled trades. As the relative proportion of younger workers declines, attracting and retaining experienced and reliable workers must become a core business strategy for all employers, regardless of size or type of business.

Not only will industries be competing against one another for the dwindling pool of workers, but so, too, will small and large businesses -- market vs. market, and region vs. region. Added to the mix are foreign-based companies looking for American workers to staff their U.S. operations.

In August, 100 recent U.S. college graduates will head to India to begin four to six months of training at an education center operated by Infosys Technologies Ltd., a growing consulting and IT services provider in Bangalore, India. These grads, the first class drawn by Infosys directly from U.S. campuses, will return to the U.S. after their training to staff the company's operations here.

The fact that employers in many markets will be affected by the looming shortage of workers is evidenced by the broad representation of industries working with the AARP in the Alliance for an Experienced Workforce. The alliance's mission is to help employers understand, plan for and create workplaces that successfully engage and utilize the skills of workers over the age of 50, both now and in the future.

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