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The geosciences as an occupation are experiencing substantial change, with a combination of economic cycles, mass retirements, and rapid technological innovation. For the next generation of geoscientists, flexibility and well-defined competencies will be key to employment resilience. These required core competencies reflect the new economy that the geosciences function in, yet most educational programs reflect the economy of the past. We examine the human capital dynamics of the geosciences in the United States as an example, and the critical challenges faced in recruiting the right next generation workforce best prepared for the rapid changes in the market including the likely new phase of the long-term cyclicity of geoscience labor demand. Mismatching educational goals and workforce needs negatively impacts individuals’ career prospects without their knowledge or recognition. Historical trends inform us on likely changes with the emerging political, economic, and demographic realities that will affect the geosciences. Some of the competing interests within the workforce development process are examined for their ethical challenges, such as the need to maximize enrollments while challenging students to be ready for the workforce. This has profound implications regarding how we promote the science to students, so that we are not leading people down paths that will not yield productive careers and in turn not foster a healthy profession.
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