This December, less than a week after she turns 65, my mother will be enjoying a well-deserved retirement. From the age of 21, when she earned her R.N. and started her nursing career, she has worked hard. Really, really hard. The life of a nurse isn’t easy – middle of the night beepers going off, uncooperative patients, and getting up before the birds and the sun. She put herself through college and earned her B.S.N. And then her M.S.N. And THEN she became a Nurse Practitioner. While that’s the incredibly understated version of her career, let’s just say that no one I know has earned their retirement like my mother has.
So why am I telling you this story? Because my mother is a Baby Boomer. Born between 1946 – 1964, Baby Boomers are retiring in droves. What does that mean for us Gen Xers, Millennials and beyond? Well, for some of us it could mean long-awaited career opportunities as we absorb the knowledge of our existing managers and prepare to the lead our companies into the next few decades. So…the baby boomers move out, we move up, and….wait a minute. We’re in trouble here. Who is going to fill all these vacant entry and mid-level positions??
About a year ago, U.S. News and World Report published a report that alleges that the U.S. will face a shortage of 5 million workers by 2020. Five. Million. Whoa…that can’t be possible. Can it?
The report states, “Overall employment is expected to increase by about 24 million to 164.6 million in 2020. The other 31 million positions will open up due to baby boomers retiring” (Bidwell, 2013). Moreover, “of the nearly 165 million jobs, 65 percent will require some sort of postsecondary education or training, up from 59 percent in 2010. In industries like information technology and government, 80 percent of the jobs will require more than a high school diploma.
So, again, I ask what this means for us Gen Xers and Millennials? It means we better start getting on the STEM bandwagon and pushing the agenda in our kids’ schools and even their colleges. And when I say technology, I don’t just mean people prepared to work at a help desk or write code. In the future, almost every job is going to require some level of STEM exposure – gone are the days when the trades (construction, manufacturing, electricians) are only dirty, dark, physically demanding jobs – everything is computerized. Software programs run our machines, draw our blueprints, and design our buildings. In my opinion, also gone are the days when a college student can make it in the business world with an undergraduate degree in Psychology, Philosophy or English Literature. Degrees need to equal real world skills.
We have got to emphasize the importance of formal post-secondary education, whether it is the “traditional” college degree or a vocational trade. But we can’t stop there…we also have to prepare them cognitively. Qualities such as leadership and communication will be in demand more than ever.
Our future depends on it.