11 September 2009 14:09 [Source: ICB]
|Gareth JJ Burgess|
THE PROMISE of lucrative salaries, global travel, decent long-term prospects and the chance to make a difference to the world just don't seem to attract enough recruits to the ageing chemical sector.
On the face of it, a career in chemicals should have widespread appeal: the benefits are many and varied, and - particularly important in the current economic climate - job security is typically pretty good.
Wages compare favorably with other industries, often taking a top spot in surveys.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) in the US, for example, recently revealed that of the highest-earning
"America's young people are our most precious resource, and helping foster a bright future for students entering the science field is a priority of the chemical industry. The ICIS campaign is an admirable and much-needed endeavor to educate young people about the essential nature of the business of chemistry and the strong contributions that up-and-coming young chemistry, engineering, technology and business students can make to our essential industry"
Cal Dooley, president and CEO, American Chemistry Council
"Many of the engineering disciplines benefit from an imbalance in the supply/demand ratio," according to Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director. "Even in a tight job market, there are simply more opportunities requiring an engineering degree than graduates available to fill those positions. That drives salaries up."
It's no secret that the industry is experiencing a severe qualified labor shortage; whether it is staff in the laboratories, engineers out in the field or truck drivers moving from site to site, the industry desperately needs to recruit fo
"Attracting sufficient highly qualified human resources into our industry is essential for future growth and success of the European Chemical Industry. Education and attracting talent are the foundation of innovation and competitiveness and that is why the FECC is supporting initiatives such as this to increase interest and confidence in chemistry among youngsters"
Hendrik Abma, director general, European Association of Chemical Distributors (FECC)
In Europe and North America, for example, the chemical industry must become highly innovative if it is to survive and prosper against competition from emerging economies such as Asia an d the Middle East.
For decades, the industry has been blighted by a negative public image, and even thou gh things are improving, many students still do not see this sector as an attractive career choice.
However, it appears that the credit crisis may not be completely bad news for the industry; there are signs that graduate chemical engineers are no longer migrating to the potentially more lucrative sectors of IT and finance, instead deciding to concentrate on their core discipline.
There have indeed been efforts over the past few years to target youngsters through schools and colleges to encourage them to make
"We see the Education and Recruitment campaign as a great boost to our efforts to encourage chemical employers to work with the education and training sector to attract and retain the young talent that will secure the future of the process industries. We need to use all the avenues at our disposal to promote the attractive career prospects on offer"
Phil Jones, CEO, National Skills Academy Process Industries
Schools have been striving to make science and engineering more exciting, while chemical producers have also raised their game, increasing investment in internships, apprenticeships and in-house traini ng programs. The open days and campus visits continue to prove successful, while many firms have also become a little more inventive.
Despite the recession, German major Evonik Industries has continued to look for new trainees this year, taking on more than 600 young people.
Earlier this month, German fertilizer major K+S also announced that it had hired 190 new trainees, which it said was an investment in the future and a commitment to Germany as a production site.
"The solution to most of the truly difficult problems we collectively face is education. Since many of the world's challenges - for example, disease, hunger, energy - will be met by science-based solutions, the stakes are even higher for recruiting and educating people in the sciences. Hence, the ICIS campaign is both timely and well focused on a critical area of need"
Tom Tritton, president and CEO, Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF)
Borealis, along with Austrian oil company OMV, has contributed €3m ($4m)tow ard the expansion of four new departments within the School of Technical Science at Johannes Kepler University Linz, in Austria, and given support to the launch of ne w plastics engineering degrees.
German producer Bayer even has its own Fellowship Program, aimed at those studying a variety of sciences. Another example is US agribusiness major Cargill, which has donated some $10,000 to Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences to exp and the school's biotechnology curriculum.
"Chemical Business Association (CBA) fully supports the ICIS campaign. A continuous flow of qualified and committed people is essential to a thriving, innovative and profitable chemical sector"
Peter Newport, director, CBA
JOINING THE CAUSE
Trade associations are also trying to inject some excitement into chemistry and chemical engineering as a career path.
The UK-based Institution of Chemical Engineers, for example, launched its "Top 10 Flash Bang Demos" - a collection of experiments targeting 11-16 year-olds, with the aim of making school science more stimulating.
Similarly, the Chemical Educational Foundation in the US held its 2009 National "You Be the Chemist" Challenge, a national chemistry competiti on that challenged students' knowledge of chemistry concepts, important discoveries, and safety awareness.
But is this enough? Is the industry doing enough to convince prospective employees that this is an exciting sector with competitive salaries and superb career progression opportunities?
THE YEAR AHEAD
"My company (ISP Chemicals) and I are enthusiastic supporters of any program that bolsters chemistry and chemical engineering education, because our industry is based on science and engineering for design and manufacture of our products."
Sunil Kumar, president, Societe de Chimie Industrielle
Our goal in the ICIS Education and Recruitment Campaign is to highlight the industry's efforts and achievements, evaluate current strategies, propose alternatives and improvements, and essentially help foster that connection between students and industry. After all, they are our future.
Over the next year, ICIS and its network of journalists aim to stimulate discus sion among industry and spark interest among students on this global issue. We will be running several articles each month and conducting a multimedia campaign involving blogging, podcasting and video.
Key companies and figures in the industry will also be sharing their views and experiences.
A blog will run alongside the campaign to highlight company initiatives, education and recruitment news and the articles we feature in the magazine.
There is also a special area on the ICIS connect web forum that will allow users to discuss the issues facing the industry.
Is your company is doing enough to encourage students into the industry and to attract new talent? Visit the blog
Lend your support to our campaign – email email@example.com
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