We are Witnessing, “The Great Workforce Shuffle”

This post is part of Hans Meeder’s new series called, “Workforce 2030.”  In these posts, Hans shares insights on workforce trends and technology innovations and comments on their implications for Career Connected Learning.

I heard someone on the radio observe that the, “COVID pandemic has condensed 10 years’ worth of societal and workforce change into just one year.” I heard this comment more than a year ago, but the sentiment rings even truer as we are almost two years into the COVID pandemic.

The pandemic revealed and intensified many challenges that were already at play.  Particularly, since Autumn of 2021, we’ve begun to witness what some have dubbed as, “The Great Resignation.”  From what I can tell, widespread resignations are just part of the phenomenon.  I’m calling it, “the Great Workforce Shuffle” (as in shuffling a deck of cards to get them all in a new order.)

Getting Ready for the Shuffle

Back in August 2021, about 55% of all workers said they might be looking for a new job this coming year.  For younger workers, those in Gen Z and the Millennial generations, the percentages who intended to look for new jobs were even higher, about 75%.  Even earlier, in February and March 2021, two other similar surveys indicated that anywhere from 25 to 55 of workers were beginning to think seriously of looking for new jobs.[1] [2]

The Great Resignation and Shuffle Begins

Then, it started happening.  In September, the largest number of workers ever quit their jobs (4 million), with a similar number leaving jobs in October.  Then, in November, another record was set when 4.5 million American workers quit their jobs.

Also, Record-Breaking Job Openings

Of course, these workers weren’t just quitting on work entirely.  Many of them were moving into other jobs.  What has also been astounding about this churn in the workforce that American businesses have enormous numbers of jobs that they are trying to fill.  Each month, since last summer, there have been about 10 million job openings. [3] Employers are having a terrible time filling all types of jobs, especially jobs on the frontline that don’t pay well and have other less than desirable conditions.

What does this all mean?

These workforce shortages are driving important short-term and longer-term changes, which I will discuss in future Workforce 2030 posts.

But one thing is very clear.  Millions of Americans, particularly young Americans, have been holding jobs that they really don’t like, don’t feel called to, and particularly if they were laid off during the early phases of the pandemic, jobs that they don’t want to go back to.    How does this relate to education, particularly Career Connected Learning?

One Big Factor: Half of High School Students Are Missing Out on Career Navigation Skills

Student survey data from YouthTruth tells us that about one half of high school graduates say that no adults in their high school helped them discover their own career aptitudes.  About the same percentage of students said that no one helped them develop career knowledge that could help them make good career decisions.[4]

The NCES (National Center for Education Statistics) tells us there are about 3.7 million high school graduates each year in the U.S.[5]  So, that means at least 1.85 million young adults are going onto to college or entering the workforce each year without any sort of career navigation skills.   

With this “Great Resignation” and the beginning of the Great Workforce Shuffle, I think we’re really starting to see some of the impacts of having so many people in the workforce who don’t have a true “Career Path” or “Career Fit.”

Simple conclusion.  We must keep working to bring Career Connected Learning to all American high schools.


[1] PULSE OF THE AMERICAN WORKER SURVEY: SPECIAL REPORT Workers Want Aspects of Remote Work to Stay Is This Working? A Year In, Workers Adapting to Tomorrow’s Workplace.  Retrieved at: https://news.prudential.com/presskits/pulse-american-worker-survey-is-this-working.htm


[2] Achievers Report Finds More Than Half of Employees Will Look for a New Job in 2021, Achievers Institute.l. Retrieved at: https://www.achievers.com/press/achievers-report-finds-more-than-half-of-employees-will-look-for-a-new-job-in-2021/


[3] The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Visit: https://www.bls.gov/jlt/


[4] YouthTruth (2015), Less than half of U.S. high school students nationwide feel prepared for college and career, YouthTruth finds, Press Release:  July 30, 2015, YouthTruth, San Francisco, California.  Retrieved from: http://www.youthtruthsurvey.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/YT-College-Career-Readiness.pdf


[5] NCES: https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=372

Hans Meeder is President of the National Center for College and Career Transitions (NC3T) (www.nc3t.com). NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance, and tools. These strategies help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education.