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Higher Education and the Aging Workforce

Higher ed has a greater share of older workers than other industries. The median age for higher education staff is 45, above the U.S. workforce average of 42. As baby boomers approach retirement age and exit the workforce in the coming decade, they will be followed by Generation X — a much smaller generation. At the same time, by 2030, it is expected that nearly one in five workers will be over the age of 65. As workers continue toward retirement, it can create challenges in the IT department as knowledge leaves the institution. For individuals who stay, it creates a training need for people to learn new systems and processes and adapt to change.

Knowledge transfer and upskilling is critical for a sustainable future. As staff begin to retire in large numbers it is the younger workers who will create the culture and drive the performance of higher ed institutions.

Prepare for the workforce shift

Institutions need to prepare for solving the skills gaps and managing an aging workforce, especially in HR and IT departments. Nearly 30 percent of the higher education workforce will be over 55 by 2024. For many institutions, it is the same person or core team that has maintained systems for the last 20 years. Leaders need to consider how to prepare for older team members retiring from the workforce and have a plan that allows them to fill key positions quickly or retain individuals longer to aid in knowledge transfer.

Upskill for the future

With worker ages expected to increase over the next decade, many individuals will want or need to stay in the workforce. Consider upskilling to advance digital competency and train staff for new work through formal learning, on the job training, and experiences. Many institutions are replacing legacy systems with enterprise cloud management applications for unified finance, HCM, and Student processes. Leveraging older works historical knowledge, innovative thinking and problem-solving skills adds value in transformation. Modernization for higher education is no longer an if but when scenario and preparing workers to adapt to change is critical.

The time is now to begin planning for the workforce changes that are expected in the next 10 years. Institutions that plan for the changing workforce by developing plans for knowledge transfer and upskilling workers will be well-positioned to face the future of higher education and focus on student success.