Relief for Retiring Workers Skills Gap May Be Coming

September 9, 2014 ( – A new survey tries to gauge how a high school senior’s career aspirations may fill the skills gap that stem from large numbers of workers retiring.

CareerBuilder says several occupations in the U.S. have a large number of workers on the brink of retirement and a growing deficit of skilled talent in the coffers. Research from CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. (EMSI) shows nearly three in four high school seniors know what career they want to pursue, and STEM-related fields (science, technology, engineering and math) top their choices.

According to the survey, 37% of hiring managers reported that they currently have positions that, on average, stay open for 12 weeks or longer, up from 35% last year. Comparing industries, information technology (52%), health care (49%) and manufacturing (44%) all came in significantly higher than the national average.

CareerBuilder and EMSI found from 2010 to 2014, there were an estimated 23,861 annual job openings for machinists, but only 6,184 college degrees in this field were awarded in 2013. In addition, 25% of machinists are ages 55 and older and approaching retirement, hastening the need to find replacement workers. The survey found similar gaps between job openings and current college graduates in other fields:

  • Bookkeeping, accounting and auditing: 43,856 job openings annual job openings from 2010 to 2014, 23,625 degree completions in 2013;
  • Industrial machinery mechanics: 19,789 job openings, 4,375 degree completions;
  • Petroleum engineers: 3,498 job openings, 1,623 degree completions.

However, career aspirations of high school seniors may close the gaps in these industries as well as others. According to the research, the majority (97%) of high school seniors plan to go to college to obtain a two- or four-year degree, or other training.

The most popular majors these students plan to pursue include:

  • engineering
  • business
  • psychology
  • biological and biomedical sciences
  • physical sciences
  • arts (visual and performing)
  • computer and information sciences
  • health professions and related clinical sciences
  • English language and literature
  • math and statistics

Seventy-three percent of high school seniors reported they already know which career they want to pursue. The most popular choices for profession among these students include:

  • teacher
  • engineer
  • psychologist/psychiatrist
  • scientist – biological/physical/social
  • artist/designer
  • veterinarian
  • machine operator
  • computer programmer
  • physician
  • government professional
  • nurse

The research also found 21% of high school seniors said their career decision was influenced by something they saw on TV or in a movie; 47% relied on research they conducted online; 32% pointed to advice from parents and/or family members; and 25% said one of their teachers advised them.

The research combines labor market data pulled from EMSI’s database with nationwide surveys of more than 2,100 employers across industries and more than 200 high school seniors conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from May 13 to June 6.