‘I was not told there would be math’

Saturday Night Live has made invaluable contributions to American humor, but the best may be the show’s political parodies. Chevy Chase was famous for mocking Gerald Ford’s clumsy reputation (undeserved, for sure, considering Ford was a standout athlete). Dana Carvey practically built a career mimicking George H.W. Bush, and Phil Hartman had Bill Clinton down pat.

One of the best lines, however, came from Will Farrell’s George W. Bush. During a mock debate with Al Gore, Farrell brought roars after responding to a question with, “I was not told there would be math.”

Who doesn’t fall for that line? Very few among us haven’t playfully mocked our math skills at some point (I’m a lawyer, after all, so it’s a regular for me). A new study, however, warns us that, yes, in fact, there will be math—and maybe more than we are prepared to handle.Student have a problem with mathematics

The Conference Board released a report this week that should give anyone in HR pause. The report warns that the United States is running out of skilled workers in certain critical areas (or, at least, expected future demand for these skills from employers is expected to exceed supply). And, yes, you guessed it—mathematicians are one of them. Healthcare employers are expected to feel the squeeze in the next few decades as an aging population will require more nurses and physical therapists. Other occupations at risk include skilled trades like plant operators, railroad workers, machinists, and electricians.

If the Conference Board is correct, HR’s tough job will only get tougher. We all know what happens when demand exceeds supply: Prices go up, which means wage increases or higher employee expectations. It also means a more competitive environment within your industry. If you are in health care, be prepared for fierce competition to hire and retain skilled staff over the next decades. If you’re in manufacturing, you may find that your skilled machinists are coveted by prime competitors and that replacements are in short supply. In summary, it’s time to get in front of these trends!

Fear not, though—this may be the opportunity you’ve been searching for to atone for the time in high school when you stuffed the math club president in his locker.