Obsolescence of human skills impacts the support of long field life systems. Human skills obsolescence is a growing problem for organizations as they try to estimate and mitigate the effects of an aging workforce with specialized (and possibly irreplaceable) skill sets. Difficulties with skills obsolescence have been reported in a number of industries including industrial controls, aerospace, and military systems, all product sectors that must support critical systems for 20–30 years or longer.

Common workforce planning models do not generally address the obsolescence of skills. Rather, they implicitly assume lost human resources are always replenishable. Nearly all of the existing research associated with the obsolescence of skills focuses on the opposite of the problem addressed in this paper, i.e., workers have skills that are obsolete and therefore need to be retrained in order to be employable. Alternatively, this paper addresses the lack of workers with the necessary skill set and the inability to replace them. This paper describes a model for the obsolescence of skills and skilled worker retention. This research provides a way to quantitatively address the problem of skills obsolescence and provides a basis upon which to estimate the cost of future system support.

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