By Debra Thompson March 22, 2004 -- If you plan to do any hiring to fill any technical positions needed in our increasingly digital world, you can expect a tough time. Hiring for any computer literate specialty is going to be difficult for two main reasons. While the media focuses on the fact that new jobs are not being created at the rate they believe is appropriate, the fact is that the jobs that are being created demand more technical skills than ever before. In addition, despite the clamor of too few new jobs being created, the unemployment rate is falling. These are the two issues that you will confront even more acutely in the digital world of the future. First, the workforce is getting smaller. Because the baby boomers are now entering their retirement cycle, their positions need to be filled from the X and Y generations just entering the workforce. The problem is that these new generations are smaller than the baby boomer generation. It is expected that in the next decade, the workforce will be at least 10 million people smaller than it needs to be. If this prediction holds true, there will be a serious shortage of workers and a very severe competition for talent. Second, the new workforce is not seeking higher education and therefore is not getting trained as needed for the new skilled jobs. A recent article in Business2.0 highlighted the fact that the growth rate of technically qualified personnel will be significantly below the demand. This article provided Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing that 8 of the 10 most critical skills will be in the technical areas. The end result is that the competition that will be created by the shortfall in the size of the workforce will be exacerbated by the severe shortage in the technical skills most in demand. This competition will cross traditional industry lines. You will not just compete for workers within the digital printing world. You will be in competition with all of the industries that need those same technical skills. Time to Plan It is time now to plan your response to these problems. Let me suggest a couple things to consider. First and foremost, strategize now to retain the top performers that you have. As the competition gets heated, your top performers will be sought after and, if they are unhappy with you, they will get lots of chances to move to be able to work for the "Employer of Choice." Second, work with the local schools to encourage more technical education and to acquaint high school and junior college students with what you do. Show them the excitement of our new technology. Explain the impact that digital printing and variable, on-demand printing is having. Some experts suggest even working with the Cub Scouts and Brownies to start them thinking about it at an early age. Consider having intern programs to allow interested young people to grow familiar with what you do and to gain knowledge about your business and the technical qualifications needed to work for you. Third, be prepared for a difficult hiring process and develop now the mindset against hiring any warm body. If you have the right workplace, you will find the top performers that you need. You just must be disciplined and patient and you will find them. Finally, plan for the training that will take your employees (and your business) to the next level in performance and maintain the competitive advantage that competent, stable and well-led employees will give you.