Baby boomers to the rescue

The U.S. Workforce is aging at an alarming rate. Baby Boomers are getting older, and reaching retirement age. An impending Brain Drain of the U.S. workforce could be on the horizon with not enough talent to fill the labor market. In fact about a third of the full-time workforce is expected to retire over the next 5 years. Though many may feel the labor outlook could be grim, many companies are responding and seeing the glass half full...

Apr. 1, 2009 -- The U.S. Workforce is aging at an alarming rate. Baby Boomers are getting older, and reaching retirement age. An impending Brain Drain of the U.S. workforce could be on the horizon with not enough talent to fill the labor market. In fact about a third of the full-time workforce is expected to retire over the next 5 years. Though many may feel the labor outlook could be grim, many companies are responding and seeing the glass half full.

According to the Bureau of Labor statistics the number of employed men 65 and older rose 75 percent while employed women 65 and older increased by twice that much since 1977. The development is the result of many economic circumstances. The most glaring cause is the sagging economy. Workers aren't ready to solely rely on pension plans and 401ks with current stability at work. In fact, the majority of these employees do not have the financial means to retire. Increased tuition rates for college have also been speculated. Workers cannot afford to give up a reliable source of income if their kids have piled up thousands of dollars worth of tuition bills and loans. In fact, a survey at Merrill Lynch showed that 80% of baby boomers over the age of 65 plan to keep working.

Though some economists see many challenges with this trend, employers may feel differently. The older worker can bring a lot to the table that younger candidates might not. Older workers already have large business networks and know the industry. When an employee has worked with a company for 30 years, they become almost invaluable to the everyday aspect and workday. This idea is reinforced when their replacement may be fresh out of college with no prior knowledge. In fact, many companies feel safer hiring a knowledgeable 58 than a 22-year-old kid out of college. And maybe most importantly, the older worker has seen it before, they know recessions. With the economic downturn, senior level positions desire the experience of someone who has been through the ups and downs before, and can lead through it.

GRS Fluid Handling, the leading industry specific recruiting firm has experienced this trend first hand. Defying the economic downturn, GRS recorded a record number of placements in 2008 with a not so surprising similarity. The average age of their placements has risen from 38 years of age to 44 years of age in one year. Though age 44 is far from retirement, the trend is still undeniable. According to GRS recruiter John Rachel, "there is no substitute for experience, and companies are doing whatever they can to recruit and retain it."

The U.S. government has even taken monumental steps to embrace the trend. Due to harsh economic downturn, and the possibility of future labor shortages, the Senate has proposed legislation to promote and support an older labor force. The legislation includes eliminating barriers to part time work including health care and decreased pension. Legislation also includes making it easier for the government to rehire federal retirees and to extend health insurance longer.

Without a doubt the labor force is aging and retirement will eventually be the best option for baby boomers. However, with the slowed economy and looming brain drain, a unique relationship has presented itself. A perfect storm has occurred between baby boomer and employer: The need to work and the need for talent. So for the next few years, don't look for the Boomers to exit so quickly. With the economic situation bleak, and lack of future talented employees, look for the Boomers to help balance the situation and help employers push past the brain drain.

GRS is a niche recruiting firm that specializes in helping companies attract the top talent for sales and engineering positions within the fluid handling industry.

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