Detroit's changing workforce; Retiring baby boomers, evolving industries and advanced degrees are shaking things up.

Author:Armstrong, Melissa
Position:Attract, Retrain and Retain Talent

The demographics of today's workforce are changing. We've all heard about the huge baby boomer generation that is fast approaching retirement age. In fact, with the popularity of early retirement and early by-outs, many baby boomers have already hung up their work boots and business suits. And we've also heard about the, changing demographics of the entire U.S. population-by 2050, if projections hold, we will be a "majority minority society"-a country that no longer has a majority of any one racial or ethnic group.


Just as the face of today's worker is changing, so is where we're working. In 1980, about 23 percent of the workforce worked in the manufacturing sector and 20 percent worked in the service sector. In 2006, the percent of the workforce working in manufacturing had dropped to under 12 percent while the service sector employed nearly 47 percent of workers.

At one time, a person with no educational experience beyond high school still stood a good chance of obtaining a job that pays well enough to support a family. Those types of jobs, many in the manufacturing sector, are now in short supply. Some sort of education beyond high school is essential to participate in this new economy and make a living wage.


Adapting to these changes is an important goal for the country's secondary and post-secondary educational establishments. A higher percentage of today's jobs require specialized training and education, much of which must be obtained off the job. Recognizing the value of education beyond high school. today's workforce is increasingly seeking an advanced degree. In 1990, 54 percent of persons 25 years or older finished their education with high school. By 2006, that number had decreased to just over 46 percent.

Nowhere in the United States is the shift from a more balanced economy to service economy more pronounced than in the Detroit Region. Area workers have taken notice and responded by seeking more education. Since 1990, area residents have increasingly sought higher degrees. Twenty-seven percent of the Regional Detroit population (age 25 and older) now hold at least a bachelor's degree compared to 19 percent in 1980. Where the Detroit Region used to be behind the national average in the number of its residents with advanced degrees, we are now exactly on par with the rest of the nation.

Many manufacturing jobs may be shifting overseas but, at least in the Detroit Region, the...

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