The economic crisis has led to one favourable result for the chemical industry. After years of seeing graduate chemical engineers migrate to more lucrative sectors such as IT or finance the chemical industry is now proving to be attractive.
I recently had an opportunity to meet Professor GD Yadav of Mumbai's Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT) and Professor Ghosh of the Centre of Polymer Sciences at IIT Delhi and both confirmed this trend.
There are several reasons for this, explained Professor Yadav. "Earlier IT was seen as a white-collar job. The sector was attractive as it offered good jobs and salaries. But that initial attraction has gone," he said.
With IT companies leading the way in shedding jobs students have become wary of joining the sector. Additionally there are not too many jobs on offer. At the same time salary levels in the chemical industry have improved.
The 2010 recruitment season has started at the Institute of Chemical Technology and students have been placed at chemical companies with a starting salary of Rs600,000/year. The highest salary offered is Rs1,400,000/year.
Professor Ghosh also highlighted another trend - students who drifted to IT are now looking to get back to their core discipline.
He cited the example of a polymer engineering graduate who wants to return to the chemical industry after working at a large IT company for a couple of years. But compromises will have to be made as two years of industry experience has been lost.
Graduates are, for the time being, valuing job security over salary. Chemical companies should welcome them even as they battle to keep trim costs and boost profits.