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Business - Written by on Tuesday, March 11, 2008 11:28 - 0 Comments

Labour shortage?

The impeding retirement of boomers, expected to suck senior employees out of both the public and private sectors en-masse, has fixed our attention on an impeding talent shortage. This shortage, it is often argued, is already impeding the progress of the North American economy.

New research, however, coming out of Duke University, may in fact dispell this as myth. Rather than rehash the facts, I’ll point you towards this great article in Baseline Magazine that covers all the bases. Its thesis, as highlighted by Professor Vivek Wadhwa, faculty in Duke’s Master of Engineering Management Program is that , “This whole concept of shortages is bogus, it shows a lack of understanding of the labor pool in the USA.” They point to continued wage rate stability as proof that no shortage exists.

Fair enough. But this leaves a secondary question still unanswered. That is, what will the exit of the boomers do to the supply of talent (for the purpose of this discussion let’s focus on science and technology) in the U.S ? Here, Professor Wadhwa is again quite optimistic. In his recent paper on the topic of global engineering talent (available here), he notes that while China and India graduate more quantity, “the debate among U.S. engineering educators is increasingly focused on how to improve the quality of its engineering graduates, since innovation is based on leadership, communication skills, and business acumen, as well as technical prowess.”

One can thus infer that the future will not be measured in workforce numbers but rather in productivity and efficiency levels. Simple thesis but for governments and educators around the world, challenging action.

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