In today's issue of Chemical and Engineering News, a letter from former ACS president Attila Pavlath. An interesting section:
For years, many of those in the Ivory Towers protected by the Tenure Moat were waving the red flag of not having enough chemists. There were many Chicken Littles with predictions about dire consequences of the falling sky.
There is nothing new about the shortage of jobs, which started many years ago. Sputnik made us realize that science education was inadequate in the U.S. and started a rush to produce more chemists. However, there was a chain reaction. Many graduates went to academe to produce more chemists. It was evident that somewhere the process had to come to an end, but those who dared to question the lack of proper attire of the king were ignored. In the 1960s, the ACS Employment Clearing House showed four jobs available for everyone who was looking for a job. Generally those were not recent graduates, because companies went to the universities to interview and hire the students before they had graduated. Starting in the ’70s the situation changed: Job seekers outnumbered the jobs offered by a 3:1 ratio. The most alarming fact was that the job seekers were mostly young graduates. Midcareer chemists who were terminated considered it more and more hopeless to sign up.
[snip] We have the best educational system in the world; our graduates receive excellent preparation to go to another university and to produce graduates with the same capability. However, we do not prepare them for industrial employment where most of the jobs are for chemists. In order to make graduates suitable for industrial jobs, the curriculum has to be changed. Unfortunately, academe needs cheap labor for work that can result in publications to obtain tenure and grants. Teaching does not provide tenure; it has become a burden and secondary to the pursuit of fame, grants, and tenure. Until the system is changed, the students are the ones who will have difficulties in their job hunt.I don't really know what to say about this, in that it's difficult for me to evaluate the factual/historical statements. Someday, it might be nice to get into a room of old ACS hands and get an oral history of their ideas about chemistry jobs.