"The era of abundant supplies of skilled workers is over. The scarcity of employees at a time of increased globalization and competition will be a watershed issue, yet too few organizations are confronting it today to prepare for the future.”

This quote comes from the book The Extreme Future: The Top Trends That Will Reshape the World for the Next 5, 10, and 20 Years, by Dr. James Canton. Dr. Canton also says in his book:

“Most organizations and nations are still asleep, unaware that there are problems brewing, convinced that any shortages in talent will be short-lived. Denial runs deep, because no one likes change, especially the disruptive kind described here. The reality is that these are not temporary changes but massive dislocations that will force companies without employee resources to move, sell, merge or go out of business. Entire nations may encounter an inability to build sustainable societies in the future due to lack of talent, even a lack of population to join the workforce.”

Dr. Canton’s comments echo a growing chorus of futurists and economists that have documented a perfect storm of economic, technological and demographic trends that have emerged upon America and the world. The 21st century brings new economic changes unseen in the history of humanity. The forces of technology and innovation have produced what some refer to as the “Innovation Economy.” This new economy is fueled by the increasing pace of information technologies which have ignited new innovation that will radically alter our world. In this new era, creativity and innovation will drive economic prosperity. The source of that creativity and innovation will be the quantity and quality of available talent.

The new reality is that today, talent is no longer confined to geography—there is a global talent pool. With the emergence of the Indian and Chinese economies, at least two billion additional people have been added to this pool. As a result, corporations that must do business internationally are drawing from this expanded pool of talent. However, future global demographic and economic trends indicate that there may be rough sailing ahead. As the pace of the innovation economy continues to accelerate, it creates the need for an increasing supply of innovative and creative talent, specifically in the areas of engineering, science and technology. Compared to the growth of the global economy, the supply of global talent is shrinking.

With the compound trends of baby-boomer retirements and flat population growth in the U.S. and Europe, western countries will have fewer people entering the education pipeline. This is further compounded by lagging educational achievement and fewer U.S. students choosing majors related to engineering and science. This confluence of trends is creating shortages in critical areas of our economy including healthcare and highly skilled manufacturing and education. These shortages are projected to grow over the next 25 years to a projected 30 million workers in the U.S.

The increasing demand for global talent will create some real challenges for those organizations and countries in the 21st century. Radical changes will have to be made to increase the numbers of educated and skilled workers in our region, state and nation. IBI