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Even in recession businesses struggle to find talented, educated workers

Staff Report • Dec 22, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Kiplinger is reporting that many businesses are having a hard time hiring the kind of workers they need. Even in the throes of a recession, a range of companies haven’t been able to fill some critical job openings.The problem is not a labor shortage, but a dearth of talent. In fact, over 60% of businesses say it’s difficult to find qualified workers. Despite the loss of about 8 million jobs since the recession began, manufacturers as a whole have continued to seek machinists and machine operators, welders, laser die cutters and other highly skilled laborers. And engineers -- chemical, nuclear, environmental and others with special training -- remain in short supply, as do scientists. Demand for nurses and nursing teachers, physician assistants, physical therapists, pharmacists and other health care workers outstrips supply. Ditto, skilled information technology workers, from systems analysts to programmers.Adding to the shortage: The most educated and skilled workers are starting to retire. Baby boomers -- the generation born between 1946 and 1964 -- represent about 40% of the current labor force. As a group, they not only have considerably more education than preceding generations, but also more than the generation that follows them, not to mention decades of invaluable on-the-job training. What’s more, newly created jobs are more likely to require higher education than in the past. About 31% of all jobs now require a postsecondary degree of some sort. Over the next decade, the percentage will creep up.Plus, too few students are interested in pursuing the science, technology, engineering and math skills that employers need. From 2004 to 2014, occupations in science and engineering are expected to grow at nearly double the rate for all occupations. The 30 occupations likely to grow fastest over the next decade lean distinctly toward science and math, and include software engineer, biochemist and biophysicist, physician assistant, medical scientist, veterinarian and veterinarian assistant, among others. The two fastest growing occupations: Biomedical engineer, likely to grow by over 70% from 2004 to 2014, and network systems & data communications analyst, up 53%.Read the full report at Kiplinger.com .

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