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The LinkUp Blog The Industry's Best-Kept Secret

April 14, 2006 / Toby Dayton

Aging Workforce Threatens U.S. Nuclear Industry

The issues surrounding the impact of retiring baby-boomers on the U.S. workforce have obviously received widespread attention over the past few years, and for good reason. The demographics of the U.S. labor force will undergo a dramatic transformation in the decades ahead as 76 million people enter their retirement years. And while the broader topic is fascinating to witness, what is particularly interesting are the stories beginning to appear about specific industries, companies, and geographies that will be especially hard hit. Equally as interesting is how people are responding to the crisis and the steps being taken to address the problem.

As was reported in the Wall Street Journal this week, the U.S. nuclear power industry stands as a perfect example:

Plans around the globe to increase reliance on nuclear power face a potential stumbling block: a coming lack of know-how in running and regulating new plants.
In the U.S., the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry group, estimates that half of nuclear-industry employees are more than 47 years old and expects as many as 23,000 retirements and other departures during the next five years — in an industry that anticipates building 15 new reactors during the next decade.

….Still, industry observers say a lack of skills and experience could add cost and complexity to nuclear ambitions.

…The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission plans to hire 350 people by the end of the year to prepare for a rush of applications to build plants. Like private industry, it may find gathering the experience it needs tough. “Suddenly, the NRC will find they have all these applications coming in to build and that they don’t have enough staff,” said Debu Majumdar, a senior nuclear adviser at the Department of Energy. “If [the new hires] are all young graduates, that will be a problem.”

….In the U.S., nuclear-engineering undergraduates rocketed to 1,759 in 2004 from 450 in 1999, while the number of postgraduates topped 1,000, twice the previous year’s intake, according to a Department of Energy survey.
Andy White, president of General Electric’s nuclear arm, said the Fairfield, Conn., company has embarked on a “very heavy-duty recruiting program” since the turn of the century in an effort to shift the U.S. industry’s aging profile. “We set it up just in time,” he said. “The first new nuclear plants are due to come on line in 2015. By the time we’re in the heyday, today’s new recruits will have a lot of experience.”

If you are dealing with issues relating to retiring baby boomers, know of specific situations where the crisis is particularly acute, or have thoughts to add on the topic, please post a comment.

[tags]Retiring Baby-Boomers, War For Talent, Human Capital Management, U.S. Nuclear Industry, U.S. Labor Force, Nuclear Power, Nuclear Power Industry, Labor Shortage[/tags]

One Comment

  1. Gunnar / Apr 16 2006 8:15 pm

    Similar issues face the IT industry as mainframe programmers retire, there is not a ready supply available to take their place. Hence systems are migrated to newer technologies. If you want to make a career out of migrating busness critical, legacy COBOL code to Unix, SAP, et. al. you are going to have an interesting life.

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