Sparking interest in science and technology at an early age is critical to the future of the chemical industry. But what happens after a graduate chooses his or her career path? How can the momentum be sustained?
To expose new graduates to real-life business experience, Air Products takes them through its Career Development Program (CDP) - it hires graduates into the program for about a two-year period to work on three assignments.
And these assignments are not set in stone. A CDP member can pick and choose, seeing where his or her capabilities fit best within the company.
The Air Products CDP, created by company founder Leonard Pool, is now in its 50th year. When the program started in 1959, the company had sales of $48m (€32m) versus $10.4bn in fiscal 2008 (ended September).
The last three CEOs of Air Products, including current chairman, president and CEO John McGlade, all started their careers with Air Products through the CDP.
"Even if participants fall in love with their first assignment and decide that's all they want to do, we've found over the years that taking the other two assignments either validated their initial choice or opened their ideas to other opportunities," McGlade said in an interview with ICIS.
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"It also gives people the ability to network and build relationships in other parts of the company so they can have those contacts as they develop their careers," he added.
Sarah Arscott (pictured with McGlade - during the actual interview!), is a graduate from Villanova University's College of Engineering who has been working as a maintenance engineer for Air Products in the CDP for about 3 months.
"The variety of opportunities available in this program means I can take my career in many different directions and work and contribute in a wide range of areas."
Right now, she works in a maintenance engineering group of about 20, helping coordinate projects with technicians.
"Even so far I've been able to get my hands on a variety of upgrade projects at a couple dozen sites. A pipeline may need a new valve, so I'm coordinating with technicians and getting these upgrades implemented on a fast track," said Arscott.
"The ability to see real projects like that and see my work make a difference is a great feeling, especially this early in my career," she added.
Sarah's dream job 5-10 years from now? Developing and executing large scale capital projects worldwide.
"Project developmnet and execution - coordinating with people and driving projects forward - is something I'm really passionate about," she said.
"We invest $1.5bn a year, so we need talented project managers that can bring together the commercial, operational, engineering and technical resources necessary to build a $150m hydrogen plant, or a $100m oxygen plant, whether it's in Texas, China, or Saudi Arabia," said McGlade.
Among Arscott's many achievements, she received the Mentzer Award at Villanova in May, due in large part to her role as Chapter President for two years of nonprofit humanitarian organization Engineers Without Borders, and Chapter President of the Society of Women Engineers at Villanova in her senior year.
Look for the November 16 issue of ICIS Chemical Business, which will feature CEOs talking about the all-important topic of education and recruitment.
Photo: Air Products CEO John McGlade and Sarah Arscott in the CDP (Credit: Air Products)