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Baby boomer scientists/engineers about to retire in huge numbers?

  1. Feb 17, 2013 #1
    One thing I've been hearing for years is that *just around the corner* is this huge wave of retirements of baby boomer engineers, scientists, professors, etc., leaving all these open positions to be filled by younger people, and so it makes perfect sense to get a degree in engineering or get a PhD in a science, etc.

    However, the baby boomer generation began in 1946, so somebody born in that year is turning 67 this year, so this wave should just be getting underway. But complicating that is the Great Recession and its slow recovery--people aren't retiring they're staying on (they lost a lot of equity), and people who would otherwise retire in the next ten years are instead planning to to work for another twenty. And people forty and under will work until they're in their 80s.

    Even if this retirement wave were to be underway now, because of the crappy economy instead of open positions it could just mean a lot of positions are just deleted from the job market once the position holder retires.

    What I'm asking is, this idea of a huge swath of open positions in science and engineering doesn't seem like it's going to pan out like everybody says, what say you?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 17, 2013 #2

    ZapperZ

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    Who told you that?

    Zz.
     
  4. Feb 17, 2013 #3
    It will happen in these and virtually every other field, not because the boomers are retiring, but because the population growth rate slowed significantly. Where we used to throw people at a problem, we no longer can afford to. For example, plants that used to require staffing 24/7/365 are now running "lights out" for as many as two shifts per day. Modern control systems and communications have reduced the need for someone to be on site to alert others to a problem. Many of those grunt-work jobs that boomers took are no longer as necessary as they used to be. So you won't be seeing that kind of work.

    That said, in technical work, I am seeing staff aging. For years our engineering groups, which began with people in their 30s, aged. Now the average ages hovers about 50-something.

    I'm not seeing the influx of STEM educated people getting through our HR department. I have my suspicions. Many HR departments take an extremely narrow view of what a job is and what a person needs to know. You have to meet precisely their keywords and experience levels or your resume goes in to the shredder. The end result is that individuals within industry are robbed from one place to another, but new people are not given much chance to advance through companies. And those companies that do allow for such advancement often lose their people to those other employers whose HR people are eager to pay more for the privilege of stealing such people.

    So, no, those jobs are not coming your way. Mind you, you're needed by industry, but they've made their own little HR hell that prohibits them from hiring you.
     
  5. Feb 17, 2013 #4
    Well Zapper, I hear it all of the time from various sources:

    1) The media,
    2) Politicians,
    3) Industry,
    4) Professors,
    All of whom have a vested interest in churning out more and more STEM grads or in causing alarm over a STEM shortage, and from:
    5) students,
    Who want to believe that there will be plum six figure jobs or professorships in their future.
     
  6. Feb 17, 2013 #5
    I agree, its bull for the most part. People want science and technology to be a means of upward mobility. And it is, for the developing world. There is not much reason to pay a scientifically trained worker in the US 60k for a job that thousands oversees can and would do for 10k.
     
  7. Feb 17, 2013 #6

    jedishrfu

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    what i've been seeing is some PhD folks retiring and returning to work part-time allowing the site to maintain its knowledge and skills while not hiring as many replacements.
     
  8. Feb 17, 2013 #7

    Vanadium 50

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    If it's all the time, you won't have a problem coming up with three or four examples, right?
     
  9. Feb 17, 2013 #8

    ZapperZ

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    So in other words, you didn't exactly get this from a well-research study that based its conclusion from well-founded data. What you got were rumors. I mean, politicians?! Students?!! Seriously?

    Sorry, I don't deal with such things, nor would I waste my time on them.

    Zz.
     
  10. Feb 17, 2013 #9
    If there was a shortage, salaries would go up. They don't so there is no shortage. The shortage is lobbyist propaganda to push down prices - simple as that. This interview might be interesting for you: http://www.qualitydigest.com/print/21092
     
  11. Feb 17, 2013 #10
    Wow, I certainly didn't expect skepticism or suspicion. I Googled for examples but there were so many, it's simpler for me to suggest you google stories on baby boomer retiring engineers/scientists.
     
  12. Feb 17, 2013 #11

    D H

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    This certainly has been a key concern at NASA for more than a decade. NASA's Strategic Management Council has rated the potential loss of working knowledge as an agency-level risk item. NASA may be extreme in this regard. From the mid 1970s to the late 1990s NASA didn't hire much, and when they did they tended not to hire fresh-outs. To mitigate this problem, NASA mandated in 2009 that 50% of new hires be fresh-outs.
     
  13. Feb 17, 2013 #12
    Zapper, I don't think you understand me. I share your skepticism, and it is because of the lack of empirical evidence that I am suspicious.

    But you certainly shouldn't be suspicious that people are advancing the idea.

    What I was hoping to get were other peoples' opinions on this as it is a notion that I never see anybody challenge.
     
  14. Feb 17, 2013 #13

    Vanadium 50

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    Then it won't be difficult to come up with the examples I asked you for, n'est pas?
     
  15. Feb 17, 2013 #14

    lisab

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    The coming tide of retirements has been widely reported. But here's the rub: unlike many in the generation before them, employees reaching retirement age now tend not to have pensions. And although many lost a lot in the last crash, many didn't -- only because they had not saved enough at that point.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703959604576152792748707356.html

    My opinion: don't count on this supposed wave of retirements to open up a slew of opportunities.
     
  16. Feb 17, 2013 #15
    http://www.uthsc.edu/allied/mt/documents/Laboratory%20Science%20Workforce%20Shortage%20Affected%20By%20Baby%20Boomer%20Exits.pdf [Broken]
    There's one. I'm honestly a little weirded out by those of you acting like I'm a lunatic making this all up. I'm not advancing this notion, I merely report that others are talking about it, and people react with suspicion? Care to explain why?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  17. Feb 17, 2013 #16

    StatGuy2000

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    If it is the HR department and their narrow view of what a job is and what a person needs to know that is limiting a firm's ability to hire needed employees, then shouldn't it make sense for such firms to "shake up" their HR departments to ensure that needed positions are filled?
     
  18. Feb 17, 2013 #17

    StatGuy2000

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    On the OP's post, if there is a general skepticism about the upcoming retirement of the baby boomer scientists/engineers in huge numbers, and the subsequent opportunities that would open up for new graduates, then what do the rest of you foresee for the job market for a new graduate with a science/engineering background in the US within the next 2 years?
     
  19. Feb 17, 2013 #18
    Weird, isn't it? I went through the same process. Like, 15 years ago I, somehow, came to the belief that there was a "greying" of physicists and that they would soon see a big shortage. It's nonsense, of course, but when I expressed it myself, I got the same reaction you did.

    And you got more than just suspicion; at least one response was outright hostile. One would almost think you touched a nerve.
     
  20. Feb 17, 2013 #19
    The baby boomers wont live forever nor will they work forever I dont understand the skepticism over a coming influx of retiring baby boomers.

    I could see the skepticism over the opportunities it will open up.
     
  21. Feb 17, 2013 #20

    Choppy

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    A problem that comes up on these and other forums with respect to employment of the graduate training ratio.

    Consider that a professor will on average train roughly ten PhD students over his or her academic career. (I don't know if ten is actually correct - it's just a common guess that seems reasonable.) Of those ten one will eventually replace the professor. A fraction of another will account for growth. Even if you assume a 100% growth rate over a professor's typical career this leaves us with eight leftover PhD graduates. What happens to them?

    The "boomer retirement" proposition, in light of this question, does not appear to lead to any deficiencies of academic bodies. I suspect that the idea commonly arises more out of wishful thinking than from actual data.
     
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