Thursday, June 14, 2012

That NSF report: Who's hiring? Who's dodging?

More from that NSF workshop summary "Challenges in Chemistry Graduate Education." There were a number of companies represented on the panels, including ExxonMobil, Chevron Phillips, Merck, BMS and Corning. Who's hiring?:
Bill Beaulieu, manager of polyolefin catalyst and product development at Chevron Phillips Chemical Company, briefly described the company, which was formed from the chemical assets of Chevron and Phillips but exists independently. A lack of government funding for polyolefin production and catalysis has led to a dearth of students in that area. However, the production of shale gas will likely drive petrochemical development in the next one to two decades, which could rejuvenate the U.S. petrochemical business. 
In the last five years, Beaulieu has hired ten PhD chemists. “For me, that’s a lot.” Most new hires come through advertisements on the ACS website, which drew 140 applicants for a recent position. The company typically hires U.S. citizens or those with green cards.
So who's dodging questions about hiring?:
David Kronenthal, vice president of chemical development at Bristol-Myers Squibb, echoed many of the previous panelists in listing desirable characteristics for new hires... 
[snip] During the discussion period, Robert Bergman from the University of California, Berkeley, asked about the advantages and disadvantages of a tight job market. “I know it’s good for [industry] to have 100 people applying for one job,” he said. “It’s not so good for us.” In response, Kronenthal said that a broader set of skills helps give students the resources they need to be creative when fewer positions are available. (emphasis CJ's)
Perhaps I'm cynical (me, cynical?), but I see that as a classic dodge. When Professor Bergman asks about a tight job market, the BMS VP points the finger back at the professor, basically telling him that academia needs to give broader skills to their students. Niiiiiice!


(Who are #chemjobs heroes in academia? Ron Breslow, Mike Doyle, George Whitesides and now Bob Bergman for having #chemjobs issues come from the overwelling of their hearts. (OK, so that's a bit thick.)) 

9 comments:

  1. It would be great if someone would ask one of these idiots who spout off platitudes such as "they need to be creative" what SPECIFICALLY they mean by creative. Do they want people who care also carry a tune or write a poem? or do they want people who can design and make molecules....which is pretty much what drug companies do and what chemistry departments teach.

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  2. You see, the question "who is hiring" doesn't ask enough. Say, Mr. Beaulieu hired 10 people at the rate of 2 a years for his ca. $1Bn business. But without knowing how the positions were created, and who took them you can not get true understanding of what happened. How many of those opening are due to attrition? How many are new? How many of the new hires were hired away from similar positions? How many are new grads? For example, if he replaced 10 retired chemists with 10 chemists that moved over from Shell (by the way I am sure that I am 80% correct), then all there was was a reshuffling of workforce, and his answer is not that different from that of the guy from BMS. It might say that it is an even bigger lie - at least in BMS case everyone understands what is being said.

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    1. Maybe, maybe not. Someone at Bartlesville is hiring new polymer chemists: http://chemistryjobs.acs.org/jobs/4808975/polymer-scientist (0-5 years, Ph.D.)

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    2. Yes, but does it increase the roster? FWIW - I talked to a campus recruiter, I'm trying to remember was is ChevronPhillips or ConocoPhillips, probably doesn't matter much, I think they share campus, and he told me that full 40% of their PhD scientists are within 5 years of retirement age.

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  3. Do you believe that the 'leaders' and 'elites' in any system known to man are (or were) interested in progress, reality or even a facsimile of fairness? Seriously, are you that thick?

    People who rise to 'leadership' and 'fame' in all hierarchical systems are always the most incompetent, power hungry and dishonest people in that particular system. Only the threat of defeat, coups and possibility of retribution keeps your so called 'leaders' and 'elites' from behaving like the autistic sociopaths they really are.

    None of the so-called gods, saints and priests in chemistry (or any other field) are what they claim to be. Neither do they have the mental capacity or even the ability to do anything beyond robbing the system faster and running away with the loot.

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    1. Technically furloughedJune 16, 2012 at 3:02 PM

      I like this comment.

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  4. For reasons that are unclear to me, I don't see why they needed to have two oil companies in this mix; one would have been enough. And after reading through more of the NSF report - they have DuPont's head of Central Research as part of this NSF effort, even though at best only 10% of DuPont chemists work there; the other 90% are in the business units, doing applied R & D, where most chemical industry chemists work.

    I don't get the companies telling professors and everyone else that academia has to do a better job of training graduate students. That won't increase the number of job openings. How about oil and chemical companies deciding to hiring more new graduates, and not just pilfer each other's experienced researchers.

    The NSF study, although well-intentioned, seems to just skirt around the major issues. There is way too much emphasis on training graduate students in the study, and not enough on why there are fewer jobs.

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    1. There is way too much emphasis on training graduate students in the study, and not enough on why there are fewer jobs.

      Well, it's NSF and they see themselves as the funders of academic chemistry (not thinking about NIH, of course.) So I think they see themselves as a stakeholder in the discussion, and not a group that can change the course of the overall economy.

      That's my guess, anyway.

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  5. KC Royals suck. Yet I don't hear them complaining that there aren't enough good players around. They admit that they can't pay market price to hire good free agents and retain homegrown talent.
    Chicago Cubs suck. Yet I don't hear them complaining that there aren't enough good players around. They admit that they made serious mistakes in the free agent market and did not pay enough attention to bringing up homegrown talent.

    Yet chemical industry will do anything to avoid saying the truth: "We just don't need you guys. Schools, stop printing diplomas".

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