DAYTON, Ohio — Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio is facing the increasingly common dilemma of an aging workforce.

Around half of the 30,000 people who work at Wright-Pat near Dayton are nearing the end of their careers, the Dayton Daily News reported .

Air Force Gen. Arnold Bunch Jr., commander of the Air Force Materiel Command, said during a recent forum in Columbus that filling those jobs and taking care of employees is “critical.”

"That's one of my top priorities," Bunch said.

More than a third of employees at the Air Force Research Laboratory are eligible to retire, which could prove a challenge. Nearly 70 percent of the lab’s workforce has at least a master’s degree. According to a U.S. Census estimate from 2017, only 10 percent of Ohioans age 25 and older hold an advanced college degree.

The state is also expected to undergo a demographic shift that will lead to 13,000 fewer high school graduates by the year 2032, according to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

Jessica Salyers, the research lab's deputy executive director, said those statistics are "keeping us up at night."

The Air Force will need to do more than just working with colleges and universities to find potential candidates, said Cassie Barlow, president of the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education.

She said the Air Force should focus on attracting and recruiting nontraditional candidates in unique ways.

“With our current unemployment rate and our demographic challenges right now, it’s really time for companies to think outside the box in terms of attraction and retention and recruitment,” said Barlow, a former commander at Wright-Patterson.

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