The lack of available, qualified workers is an issue felt across manufacturing, including the precast concrete industry. And with the Baby Boomer generation – which represents the largest living adult population in the United States – continuing to head off into retirement, the numbers are not expected to get better anytime soon.
An analysis by Rex Nutting on MarketWatch.com predicts the U.S. supply of workers to shrink as low as 50,000 per month within the next decade. That’s down from around 390,000 right now. In Europe and East Asia, Nutting predicts a net negative in worker population.
Not all is bleak, though. Nutting offers six solutions that the U.S. government and employers can start on now to ease the strain in decades to come:
- Increase immigration. Legal immigration has been on the decline since 2017. That not only means fewer doctors, scientists and other high-skilled workers are coming to the United States, it means fewer farm hands and industry line workers. Increasing immigration helps to fill those gaps.
- Make work more attractive. Companies that actively strive to improved working conditions, increase wages and provide support for a better work-life balance are reporting fewer speed bumps when it comes to finding qualified workers. Industries that have increased stress and regulation on its workforce – such as teachers, child care workers and health care workers – are seeing record burnout.
- Make it easier for older people to work. Gen X is smaller in terms of population than the Boomers, but most Gen Xers have been working since their teenage years. They like to stay busy and engaged. Second careers that appeal to the Gen X population are a font of experience and knowledge for companies to tap into.
- Invest more in automation. Business investment is down overall in the United States. With fewer workers available, machines can make up for labor losses.
- Increase fair trade. Africa, Asia and Latin America are booming with a growing labor force. Globalization can tap into that youth.
- Change the culture of impatience. Not every store needs to be open 24/7. We all lived normal lives without same-day and next-day delivery. Maybe those are needless luxuries. Taking a step back in instant gratification could lift the tide for everyone.