The future of a vibrant chemical industry demands a call to duty, and it couldn't be more clear - to spark interest in science and technology at a young age, attract graduates into the industry and then guide them on a promising career path.
No easy task - but from company CEOs, employee volunteers to industry associations, people are acting quickly on this critical issue. "Getting our young students interested in science and technology early enough in their school lives is one of the most important things we can do as an industry and as a nation," says John McGlade, chairman, president and CEO of US-based industrial gases and chemical firm Air Products.
The issue is particularly important in the Western world, where the chemical industry is graying, and faces huge competitive pressures from developing nations.
"Europe faces competitive threats from low-cost labor. There is no point in competing head-on in terms of cost. In these regions, companies need improved skills to operate in a smarter way and deliver real added value," says Tom Crotty, CEO of INEOS Olefins & Polymers Europe, in an interview with ICIS.
"In the UK, one of the biggest crises facing our science-based industries is the availability of skilled people at all levels, whether we're talking about graduate engineers or skilled fitters on major projects," he notes. "We can ignore this issue and hope that it goes away, or we can do something about it."
And indeed, chemical companies are reaching out to students in primary and middle schools through various programs to spark interest early on.
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