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Like a Rat through a Snake

March 16, 2010

Post by Mike Gugger, Manager of Consulting Services

This is follow-up to my last post, “It’s our Fault.” If you didn’t read the last one, it is still up, but in summary, manufacturing jobs are going begging and in my opinion there are three reasons.

First, it is our (the parents) fault and our misconception both of what those jobs are, and what we define as success for our children. The second point I want to make here is about Baby Boomers – again, to paraphrase, we have engaged the enemy and it is us.

So I call this post, “Like a rat through a snake” – after a quote I heard somewhere by a population expert describing the impact Baby Boomers have had on the demographics of this nation. Picture it with me – the snake eats the rat, in one big chunk, and the lump in the snake’s body both works its way through and slowly diminishes in size until it is passed out the other end. That is what the Boomer (born between 1946 and 1964) population looks like in the demographics.

So why is this group of people an issue for today’s machining job market?  Two reasons – first they are still here; and second, they soon won’t be.

The Boomers are still working – a poor economy, a desire to work thanks to a passion for the job – are just two of the many reasons why Boomers are still in the work force and, in particular, in the manufacturing workforce.

The dismal economy has many people who thought they could retire, still in positions earning a living instead of filing their lives in other ways – golfing, volunteering , grandchildren, etc.   Coupled with the long period of manufacturing contraction – over 64 quarters in a row from the late 80’s to the first half of this decade – no one entered the industry.  There is now a “donut” in the industry population with the older, more experienced, workers who hold the knowledge and skills versus the younger, less experienced individuals and there plenty of positions waiting for them.

To a GenX-er or a Millennial, there are not enough “O’s” in old to describe the Baby Boomers who are still in the workforce.  The smart “youngins” however are paying attention to their generational predecessors realizing that they hold the “tribal knowledge.”

But most importantly, these Boomers will be leaving the workforce sooner than later, which brings me to my point.  Soon we will be witnessing the end of the 29 million Baby Boomers’ working life – whether they like it or not – and we will see the vacancy rate for positions sky rocket.

In 2001, the (not so)” Big Three” estimated that over 55% of their workforce would be retiring in the following few years.  Now that was pre-economy bust – but the point still remains.  There is a whole heck of a lot of grey hair currently in the manufacturing workforce that won’t be here in the near future. Manufacturing is begging for talent now – the market is soon going to be wide open for those with the computer skills, math skills, training and desire to take on the challenge.

My final post in this series will be about the manufacturing/machining skill set and where you can get them…


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