Dr. Anthony O. Parker

The baby boomer generation was born between 1946 and 1964. We are between 54 and 76 years old. Although there are approximately 76 million of us, we are no longer the largest segment of the population. By 2030, all boomers will be at least 65 years old. There is no way to reverse this trend.

There are approximately 86 million generation Xer’s, and they now represent the largest population group. Generation X is the largest group partly because the mortality rate for boomers is accelerating. We obviously must look to Generation X to fill the jobs being vacated by the retirement of boomers. However, we should note that the oldest Generation Xer’s are 53 years old, and many of them will soon be leaving the workforce through retirement. The relative low birth rate of Xer’s also complicates the issue. There are, and will be, for the foreseeable future, fewer adults who can participate in the labor force.  

What are the solutions? Several health care systems are recruiting foreign nurses by necessity.  However, importing guest workers for high skill jobs, is at best a temporary solution. Is a solution artificial intelligence? Almost all technicians use tablets and a smart phone to conduct research, answer questions, and solve problems. I haven’t seen a set of World Book Encyclopedias in 25 years. However, a smart phone can’t operate a crane, drive a truck, or calibrate the avionics of an airplane. Another solution is to offer employment incentives.  The U. S. Coast Guard currently offers a $5,000 enlistment bonus to qualified candidates that hold associate degrees. How long can this level of signing bonuses be sustained?  A long-term partial solution is to accelerate the preparation for middle and high school students for work. They will, however, represent a smaller percentage of the population and it’s unlikely that we can significantly accelerate the high school graduation date for a COVID era 14-year-old. 

The most underutilized option is to encourage underprepared younger adults to acquire additional relevant economic utility. The State of Georgia is well prepared to lead the country in reducing the negative replacement rate. Dual enrollment allows high school students to earn two certificates of credit, one diploma, and 30 credits toward an associate’s degree. The HOPE Career Grant and traditional HOPE Grant provides the resources for adults to earn technical certificates, diplomas, and associates degrees. Adults who didn’t earn a high school diploma can enroll in a new program, Career Plus HSE (High School Equivalency) or ATB (Ability to Benefit) Joint Enrollment. US Department of Education Title IV financial aid continues to provide options for economically disadvantaged citizens. 

The answers must be bold, comprehensive, and involve all community constituents.  There is no time to waste.