Aging workforce, limited ed opportunities pose challenges


With limited higher education opportunities and the state’s oldest workforce, employers on Cape Cod and the Islands face extra hurdles finding younger employees to replace retiring Baby Boomers, according to a report released Tuesday morning in Hyannis.

The 23-community area, anchored by larger communities like Barnstable, Falmouth, Yarmouth, Sandwich, and Bourne, was one of only two state labor markets where the population declined during the past decade, the State House News Service reported. And with 56.4 percent of its labor force 45 years old or older, it is the only region to have more than 50 percent of its workforce in that age range. In Massachusetts as a whole, 44.4 percent of the workforce is 45 and older, according to the report authored by the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

The report found that workers between the ages of 16 and 34 make up 23.3 percent of the labor force on the Cape and Islands, but account for 32.5 percent of the unemployed in the region, a disproportionate share. The region also faces higher education access issues. While the number of students enrolled full-time at two-year and four-year institutions on the Cape & Islands has grown at a faster rate than statewide and nationally, the report describes the region’s higher education sector as “relatively small.”

In 2010, the region had five post-secondary educational institutions and nearly 40 percent of the region’s certificates were awarded by the private Empire Beauty School–Hyannis and 37.5 percent were awarded by Cape Cod Community College, the source of all associate’s degrees completed. Massachusetts Maritime Academy is the only public bachelor’s degree-granting institution in the area and accounted for nearly 96 percent of the bachelor’s degrees completed in the region. “The coming wave of retirements will likely create attractive employment opportunities for younger labor force participants, but only to the extent they manage to acquire the needed education and skills,” Yolanda Kodrzycki, vice president and director of the New England Public Policy Center at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, said in a statement accompanying the report’s release.