2010: Recruitment odyssey
State of the Profession, 2006: Practices maintain the struggle to find and retain quality staff as baby boomers continue to retire
Jul 01, 2006
NATIONAL REPORT — Good employees are hard to come by, and it won't get easier any time soon.
National employment projections indicate that with baby boomers planning to retire, businesses will struggle to find enough help as early as 2010, when the country's largest generation will be age 46 to 64.
It could get worse before it gets better as many economists predict that an impending shortage could prompt wage wars as large and small businesses alike compete for fewer prime-aged workers.
"Moving into the next three to five years, you are going to see some labor shortages, much like we saw in the late 1990s," says Chad Moutray, chief economist for the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration. "You are going to see a massive increase in the number of workers that are going to be required to fulfill that turnover as the baby boomers leave the workplace, and that's going to create a large labor shortage, and you already see it today in some of the specialty fields."
Veterinarians are not alone. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) makes absolutely no mention of a labor shortage in its biennial labor report: "Labor Force Projections to 2014: Retiring Boomers," the report says labor-supply growth is shrinking, and the workforce is increasingly gray. "The result is a decrease in the overall labor force participation rate and a slower rate of growth of the labor force," reports BLS Economist Mitra Toosi.
BLS projects that between 2004 and 2014, 39 million workers will enter the labor force and more than 24 million will leave. These figures compare with nearly 33 million entrants and more than 19 million who exited in 1994 to 2004.
Private practices likely will feel a sting, especially in the already-tight market for credentialed technicians.
Fewer veterinarians report being able to find qualified technicians in their area compared to 2003 (Table 1).
The average length of a veterinary technician's tenure is 5.2 years, and about 22 percent stay at a practice for more than eight years (Table 3).
"It's becoming more and more true in specialized businesses; employees are more difficult to keep," Smith says. "Part of the driving force in healthcare and veterinary medicine is that you are getting a younger workforce, and the work ethic is different. They are not going to break their back for the clinic, so you have to depend on doing other things to attract people and engage them."