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17 July 2017—Roger Klug started talking about retirement as he neared age 65 a few years ago, but his bosses wouldn’t hear of it.

Dee DePass, Star Tribune

Roger Klug started talking about retirement as he neared age 65 a few years ago, but his bosses wouldn’t hear of it.

Klug had been the 13th employee at the company, Alexandria Industries, when he joined in 1971. He had unique skills from the start, when he was the only one who “corrected” aluminum extrusion molds by grinding away precise slivers — by hand — until the mold met specifications. Over the years he excelled at picking up the newest technologies.

In a tight labor market with accelerating baby boomer retirements, his experience made him too valuable for the company to lose. He eventually agreed to a two-day workweek, with more days filling in for vacationing co-workers.

Staying “was a very good thing to do because I enjoyed my job,” he said. “I didn’t want to be working full-time on one day and doing nothing the next.”

Hanging on to talented older workers steeped in institutional knowledge has become a critical issue for many manufacturing businesses. About 78 million baby boomers are nearing or at retirement, and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) estimates that factories will need 3.5 million new factory workers in the next 10 years just to keep production lines and distribution routes going.

The workers, experts say, are not there right now. In fact, factories are struggling to grow because they don’t have enough well-trained staffers. The shortages are already are acute in manufacturing.

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