Article by: Dee DePass 


Concerns about the nation's widening job-skills gap have captured the attention of AARP, corporate human resource executives and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

In a poll released Monday, AARP and the Society for Human Resource Management found that 72 percent of HR professionals they surveyed identified the pending retirements of baby boomers as a problem that their organizations hope to address.

To understand the issue, consider that a Pew Research Center report indicates that 10,000 baby boomers will reach age 65 every day for the next 20 years. Many are expected to retire or curtail their workloads as they qualify for government-paid health benefits under Medicare.

Concerned HR managers said they are preparing for the exodus by:

•Increasing training and cross-training of younger workers (45 percent of respondents).

•Developing succession planning (38 percent).

•Hiring retired employees as consultants and temporary workers, so as not to lose their expertise (30 percent).

•Offering flexible work arrangements (27 percent).

•Designing part-time positions to attract older workers (24 percent).

According to the poll, more than half the HR managers said their older workers have "stronger writing, grammar and spelling skills" than younger workers and that they exhibit a stronger professionalism and work ethic.

Separately Monday, Klobuchar's office said the senator will be at Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis Tuesday to talk about her plans to introduce legislation to address the retirement of experienced workers and training for younger job seekers who lack the experience to fill their shoes.

Klobuchar plans to seek federally funded training grants that can improve the job prospects of less-educated and less-skilled workers.

The skills gap issue was underscored as a statewide problem during the Governor's Job Summit in October. At the time, dozens of employers complained that they had scores of high-level and good-paying jobs, but no candidates with the skills to fill them.

Officials of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) said Monday that they are trying to address a skills gap that exists with new job seekers looking to enter the manufacturing sector for the first time. Many don't have the technology, computer programing and engineering skills needed to operate today's robotic and other software-driven machinery.

But with training, they can succeed, get apprenticeships, internships and well-paying jobs, said Joe Mulford, dean of manufacturing and customized training at Hennepin Technical College.

MnSCU colleges such as Hennepin and Dunwoody offer a range of classes and degree programs that focus on technology skills, blueprint reading and the ability to operate computerized machinery.