Mhlnews 1206 Gary Forger

Inner Circle: Building the Workforce of the Future

Jan. 1, 2009
Given today’s economic climate, it sounds a little dysfunctional to ask what your company is doing to prepare for the workforce of the future.

But, the fact is, leading companies are already taking steps to do just that. In some regards, the future is already here.

For instance, we are on the cusp of a time when four different generations with quite different views of work and life are just getting to know each other in the workplace. And, it’s not always pretty. Or productive.

Add to that an expected shortfall of 10 million workers in this country just six years from now. The numbers are against us; the population of people 65 and older will increase by more than 20% by 2015. Meanwhile, 25- to 39-year olds will grow by only 6%.

While Boomers’ skill sets traditionally put them in good stead for more than a decade, Busters (born 1965 to 1984) must renew half of their skill sets every 30 to 36 months. If that’s not enough, it is expected that nearly 40% of the current workforce and a quarter of new hires will have basic skill deficiencies.

Different attitudes. A smaller, less experienced labor pool. Rapidly changing skill set requirements. A lack of adequate training. Other than that, there’s not much going on in the workplace. Did I forget to mention that there are a myriad of cultural changes taking place, too?

Fortunately, all is not lost. Not by any means. There are resources available to help you cope.

A good place to start is at This Material Handling Industry of America microsite can help you get some facts and find some answers about the workforce of the future. It consists primarily of links to experts in the field who not only identify the issues but offer potential solutions.

Of special interest are two videos. One features the keynote panel on the Workforce of the Future at ProMat earlier this month. The one-hour video is hosted by journalist Forrest Sawyer and features five diverse panelists, including those new to the workforce as well as DC veterans. In addition, a second video provides a walkthrough of a special pavilion MHIA sponsored at ProMat on the Workforce of the Future. Both are definitely worth the time.

In addition, MHIA has some education programs that are leading the way to help develop a workforce with the right skill sets going forward.

One is the College Industry Council on Material Handling Education (affectionately known as CICMHE). This organization ( of engineering and business professors is focused on advancing material handling education at the graduate and undergraduate levels. The group enhances learning at all levels, from the classroom to the research facility. For more information on what CICMHE can do to help you with the workforce of the future, contact Mike Ogle at [email protected].

In the past year, there has been a groundswell of demand for material handling education at the secondary education and vocational/ community college levels. And, MHIA is building a program around that demand for more informed, entry-level workers in transportation and distribution logistics. Allan Howie is your contact here at [email protected].

Gary Forger is senior vice president of professional development for the Material Handling Industry of America.

And, to wrap it all up, there is the Material Handling Education Foundation ( Over the past 32 years, MHEFI has awarded more than $2 million in scholarships to graduate and undergraduate students to prepare them for the workforce. The next call for donations is March 1, and your contact is Victoria Wheeler at [email protected].

Hopefully, these resources will help you start building your workforce of the future.

Gary Forger
[email protected]

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