Iowa, like many surrounding states, is in the grip of a worker shortage. Workforce Labor Analyst Ann Wagner says while some people are still looking for work, it’s not as simple as matching any applicant to any job. “Every employer is looking for certain skills,” Wagner says, “and sometimes the certain skills they’re looking for are difficult to find, and there are just a wide range of shortages.” She names the construction trades, and healthcare, where they need registered nurses and pharmacists.
Right now manufacturing’s on the rebound and there are shortages in the machine trade where they need mechanical engineers. There’s a shortage of accountants and financial analysts and market-research analysts. Even in information technology, the computer programming field which for several years offered few jobs has the help-wanted sign out again.
Most jobs today require a certain level of skill and education, she says. After 1980, she says the opportunities diminished a lot for unskilled labor in fields like manufacturing where once they could find jobs. Manufacturing today requires skills, and the field hires a lot of people with college degrees. Wagner says the oldest members of the so-called “Baby Boom” generation turn sixty this year, and will soon retire.
Over the next several years we’ll see a surge in retirements by that generational group, and the following “Generation X” is much smaller in size. Not just the Baby Boomers, but all their expertise, will need to be replaced in the workforce. Wagner says the nation’s big railroads are already recruiting on college campuses to replace the Baby Boomers that make up a large portion of their workforce.