Is the skills gap real?
The Boston Globe - 07/31/2015
Last year, for instance, the Brookings Institution reported that it took twice as long to fill science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, jobs as non-STEM posts. Meanwhile, academics like Alicia Sasser Modestino, an economics and public policy professor at Northeastern University, have focused attention on the middle-skills section of the labor market — nurses, teacher’s assistants, and computer support specialists. While Massachusetts is graduating plenty of students with the bachelor’s and graduate degrees required to do the most sophisticated work, Sasser Modestino says, it is not producing enough people with associate’s degrees or some college education.
Even some skills gap skeptics lend credence to yet another argument, this one invoking that great force of modern American demography: the baby boom generation.
The concern is that the coming retirement of the boomers, a particularly large and well-educated cohort, will punch a sizable hole in the skilled jobs market that will be difficult to patch. Barry Bluestone, director of Northeastern’s Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, points to census data that suggest a particularly pronounced problem in the manufacturing sector. In 2000, about 41 percent of the Massachusetts manufacturing workforce was age 45 or older, he says. By 2010, the figure had jumped to nearly 54 percent, more than 9 percent higher than all other industries. “There is a skills gap,” Bluestone said. “And I think it’s going to get a lot worse.”