Officials are also concerned about the lack of young workers.

AUGUSTA (AP) – As baby boomers start approaching retirement age, the state of Maine is gearing up for the potential loss of more than one-quarter its work force over the next five years.

Donald Wills, director of the Bureau of Human Resources, is crafting a plan to help the state cope with the loss of so many workers. Each year he puts together a chart that highlights the baby boom generation’s impact on state government.

The chart shows that more than half of the state’s current work force is age 46 or older. The trend is especially troubling because there aren’t enough young workers to fill the vacant positions, Wills said.

“Not only will these people retire, but there aren’t enough people behind them to take their place,” Wills said.

Maine’s population is the fourth oldest in the nation, and young workers leave the state at a rapid pace.

To make the state a more attractive employer, Wills said a new emphasis has been placed on offering good benefits, good pay and the chance to be promoted.

State officials began planning for the retirements a few years ago and asked key people in state departments to identify the top-level managers who may be near retirement, Wills said.

Another strategy is to encourage retirees to come back to work or extend their service with the state, Wills said. A law passed last year allows retirees who come back to state service to earn more money.

Wills said a big reduction in the state work force is not expected because some government jobs require a good bit of knowledge about complex issues.

“The idea of incenting your most senior people to leave as a long term strategy to reduce the work force, I don’t think that’s the way to go,” Wills said.

Over the next five years, 4,000 of the state’s 13,500 workers will be eligible to retire, according to Wills.

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