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Making boom for retirement

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The silver tsunami is coming.

It’s no secret that baby boomers are going to be retiring and leaving the workforce in droves over the next two decades. The first wave of roughly 78 million boomers reached retirement age in 2011, and some 10,000 Americans will turn 65 every day until 2030.

This obviously carries huge implications for society, including business and the economy. We’ve been reading stories for years now about looming workforce shortages, for example, especially in fields that require extensive training or education such as engineering and health care.

And while the departure of so many experienced workers is going to touch just about every level of the workforce, one of the hardest hit categories will be management and other leadership positions.

Fortunately, there is still time to prepare for the exodus. Leadership Washington, a new program being launched by the AWB Institute, a nonprofit affiliate of the Association of Washington Business, is one way to do just that.

The nine-month training program is essentially a statewide version of the leadership programs you may be familiar with at the local level. Leadership Tri-Cities, a program I leaned about when I served as president of the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce, is an excellent example.

Leadership Washington participants will take part in six sessions held in locations throughout the state. At each stop, they will learn about the industries and issues that will define Washington’s future.

By the end of the course, graduates will be better prepared to step into the leadership positions that baby boomers are about to vacate.

The program begins in September with an overview of public policy and the economy. The meeting will be held at the Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum, in conjunction with the Association of Washington Business’ 25th annual Policy Summit.

In October, the group will meet in the Tri-Cities to learn about agriculture, energy and immigration.

The third session will be held in January in Olympia during AWB’s annual Legislative Summit. The agenda covers the role of business in public policy and politics, the military, and water quality regulations.

In February, the group will meet in Seattle to learn about the issues facing research, high-tech, and bio-tech companies, some of the important parts of the city’s thriving economy.

In March, the group will travel to Vancouver — site of the failed Columbia River Crossing project — to learn about the role of transportation in the state’s economy, and explore the historic timber industry and the evolving energy sector.

The final meeting, scheduled for next May during AWB’s annual Spring Meeting in Spokane, will look at health care, the military and manufacturing.

Filling the shoes of the baby boom generation will be a tall order. But unlike with the other kind of tsunami, we have time to prepare for this one.

If you know a future leader, or think you might be one, please visit www.awbinstitute.org/leadership to learn more about the program, including how to apply. Applications are due by May 15.

Kris Johnson is president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s chamber of commerce.