babyPeople don’t talk about it enough but we’ve got a skills deficit a’comin. And it should (and does) freak people out and so we don’t (but need to) talk about it. Right now in America these are the numbers: “The majority of boomers (two of every three) will be younger than age 65 in 2018, whereas by 2030 all of the boomers will have passed age 65. We expect that projections of the US economy to 2030 would show a continuation of greater rates of growth in industries and occupations that employ highly-educated workers, consistent with the long-standing trend in the US, and accentuated by the increased demand for healthcare as the baby boomers enter old age. Yet the size of the baby boom cohort coupled with its high education levels imply that the replacement of older with younger cohorts will not lead to rising education levels to anything like the extent to which it did in the past. It is plausible, then, that general skill shortages would be much more evident in projections extended out a couple more decades.”

In China: “China has a huge talent deficit brought about by a brain drain that has been weakening the Chinese labour force since 1978, Professor Wang said. A total of 1.92 million Chinese students went overseas since 1978 and only 600,000 returned to China. The return rate from the United States to China in the fields of science and engineering is only 8 per cent.”

In the UK: “Former security minister Pauline Neville-Jones has condemned the UK cyber security skills base as wholly inadequate. Neville-Jones, the government special representative to business on cyber security, told the Global Strategy Forum think-tank in London it is urgent and vital to address this deficit. She called for a teaching programme that better prepares students for a career in the security industry.”

Scary? Yes. Insurmountable? Possibly. So how are top tier companies dealing with the fact that (put bluntly) soon there won’t be anyone smart enough to run their companies? Many of them are beginning the sourcing and attraction process a lot younger. Not just in the name of their company, but in the name of their industry.

Half the reason we’re facing a skills deficit is the fact that younger people just aren’t studying the “hard” subjects. Rolls-Royce CEO Sir John Rose, mentioned that not enough UK students were pursuing advanced degrees in engineering and science. That business leader has a vested interest in getting his hiring needs and qualifications in front of younger and younger children…and fast.

Fortunately, we live in an age of social media, where some children have Facebook accounts, blogs and twitter accounts from the time of their first sonogram. For some employers, they just need their brand in front of those youngsters from Day 1 (or so…) other employers may feel the need to invest now to secure a solid talent pool for later down the road.

To that end, companies in Europe, the United States and the UK are focusing on children as young as 2 years old, sponsoring events that encourage innovation and creativity, particularly in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.

Experts point to young people being able to see themselves in the role as an important part of employer branding specifically targeted at the young. While it’s customary for local employers like Boeing, Lego and more to sponsor educational initiatives and work with schools to sponsor events and informative drives, the practice is less about branding their company and more about boosting interest in a subject that is more difficult than the standard fare.

Talent Communities and E-Learning, both hot topics in the HR blogosphere of late, have gotten their share of focus as part of these initiatives as well. Talent Communities are smack in the middle of the youth recruiting triumvirate, encompassing social media, learning and multi-way communications between potential employer, internal employees, potential candidates and alumni. In fact, many larger corporations such as Caterpillar and Northrop Grumman have turned to talent communities to help build a struggling pipieline, trying to explain the younger and younger “passive candidates” what sort of skills they’ll need to work in the field or at the company, before the career path is set.

While “recruiting babies” is a bit of a premature title (pardon the pun) the extreme measures to which employers and industry leaders will go to to ensure that their talent pipelines continue to be filled does make one wonder how young the recruits will be in 2030?

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