Boomers’ aging creates a shortage in some jobs and a demand for others

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By Bryan Dean
Staff Writer
TINA NEEL would like to hire two more veterinarians for her growing animal hospital on Oklahoma City’s northwest side. But she has trouble finding them.

Neel’s veterinary hospital is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She said the demand for after-hours pet hospitals is growing. Most major cities have several, and owners must hire more staff to keep the businesses open longer.

“I could hire two more veterinarians if I could find them,” Neel said. “There is a shortage of veterinarians for what we do who want to work nights and weekends and evenings.”

A report recently released by the U.S. Labor Department listed veterinarians among the 30 fastest-growing occupations for the next decade.

The list is an eclectic combination of primarily professional and service-oriented occupations including substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, personal financial advisers and health care specialists, among others.

Growth is being driven in many cases by retiring baby boomers.

JoAnn Pearce, executive director of A Chance to Change, an addiction treatment center, said the need for replacement counselors has never been greater.

“The baby boomer generation of counselors has started retiring, and I’m already seeing the effect of that in our industry,” Pearce said.

Pearce, a baby boomer, or someone born between 1946 and 1964, said a high percentage of counselors fall into that generation. She’s hopeful the coming generation will be as attracted to the field as she was.

“When I was coming into college, it was very important for people in my generation to have a job that was meaningful to us,” Pearce said. “I think a lot of people are in this work for that kind of reason.”

While the pending retirement of baby boomers has caused a supply shortage in some occupations, it has increased demand in others.

Alan Goldfarb, vice president of wealth management and financial adviser with Smith Barney, said that as many people reach or near retirement age, they start thinking about financial planning.

“More people are needing the help of a trained financial adviser to help them get ready for retirement and then to have a financial plan that lasts them throughout their retirement years,” Goldfarb said. “The first baby boomers are reaching retirement age and millions more are nearing that age.”
Health, vet care needs similar
Demand in many of the occupations on the Labor Department’s list isn’t just about replacement workers.
Some of the jobs with the highest demand, such as computer systems analysts and software engineers, predictably made the list.

But why veterinarians?

Neel said the need for veterinary care mirrors the need for other health care occupations such as home health aides and physician’s assistants, which also made the Labor Department’s list.

As health science advances, people live longer, meaning they have more chronic problems that require long-term care. The same is true for pets, Neel said.

Veterinary technicians “” or nurses “” also made the list of the fastest-growing jobs.

Neel said it’s not just a matter of more animals needing care. She said people are coming to understand their pets deserve health care.

“Small animals are becoming part of people’s family much more than they used to be,” Neel said. “They understand and want better care for their pets.”

Pearce, Neel and Goldfarb have another thing in common. They all said they like their jobs.

“After 28 years I still love to go to work,” Neel said. “Not many people can say that about their job.”

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