“Bye-Bye” Baby Boomers and Employability Skills: Get Ready for the Future of Work

The impact of Future of Work issues on technician work and therefore, technician education is a current hot topic. We immediately think of the manufactures who are adjusting to new technologies affecting their manufacturing processes and practices. A first step to understanding what the impact of new technologies is to project what the nature of work will be for manufacturing technicians. A current workforce concern, like the wave of baby boomers leaving the workforce, is not a Future of Work issue. In addition, the collection of skills and behaviors that we tag as employability or professional skills today will evolve to something different as the nature of work changes in the new future.  

Baby boomers leaving the workforce have been a recognized challenge for modern manufacturing.  Industry has long understood two subtle effects of the G.I. returning home from Europe and the Far East in 1945.  First, these WWII veterans and then their subsequent children (the baby boomers) would represent an abundant labor supply for a long post-war period of time.  Second, that labor supply would begin to diminish by the 1980s.  Today's Manufacturers have not ignored this reality.  Most industries have been developing a chronologically and culturally diverse workforce to diminish if not avoid such labor force swings in the future.  Thus, bye-bye baby boomers isn't a future of work issue but the skills the replacement worker really needs is most defiantly import to modern manufacturing facilities.      

Future of Work issues are evolving from the recognized need for new workers possessing strong employability skills. The evolution has to recognize and respond to the rapid and unpredicted injection of computer intelligence and technology into industry as well as our culture.  Artificial intelligence, automation, advanced computer-based process control, robotic assistance, smart sensors, and "big data" are being injected into manufacturing at a fast pace. New workers with skills to interact with this "brave new manufacturing world" is the focus. Will our concept of work evolve to be less task oriented? How will they work? What will they be doing? As for employability skills, it is clear that expanding the development and demonstration of these skills in all stages of the education system is today's task. However, understanding the impact of smartphones, instant communications, and constant social networking habits will have on those future worker's behavior is indeed a Future of Work issue.

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