David Harwell, American Chemical Society: Thanks for the conversation, it's been great. I'm David Harwell, from the American Chemical Society. It's National Chemistry Week, so yay!
Our unemployment rate in chemistry is 3.5% - that's good, until I look at new graduates. So new graduates, new bachelor's in chemistry are over 16% unemployment, new PhDs, 9%.
So I'm not so worried about those more experienced people -- we've been able to place them. What I can't place are the new grads because I think that we overshot, there's this miscommunication that you've been talking about, where people have been encouraged and there's uh, for these students, or students that can't find a job, they feel that there's a broken covenant. Often times when I'm counseling them, they're saying "You told me" -- I didn't tell them anything -- but somewhere along the way, somebody promised them, "Get a degree in STEM and you'll be taken care of." And so they end up going for their master's or their Ph.D. because they can't get a job and at least they'll get paid in grad school in chemistry. That's the good thing about chemistry.
So how do we, how can we address this - you have two lost boys, I have 6,000 lost students. How do we address their needs, can we get them back into the workforce somehow? Is there demand for them, or is it only at the manufacturing level?
Laurel Rutledge, VP for Human Resources at Bayer MaterialScience: www.bayerjobs.com (laughter) I'm like, you know, chemists, you know seriously, I'm thinking about some retirements that we've had and some very serious changes in our workforce and Bayer is a company that's 150 years old, 150 years of making science make sense, that's Bayer. And so, we have, and it's a place that people don't leave. They come to Bayer and they retire from Bayer. What means is that if you look at the way the generational curve is happening, we are approaching a point in time where we are going to have more people retiring as fast as we need them. So, I'm not sure what's happening everywhere else, but we are looking for people daily. Daily. Entry as well as experienced, bachelor's, 2 year degrees, master's degrees, Ph.D.s, we want 'em. We want 'em.
Nicole Smith, Research Professor and Senior Economist: And you know, it's not much consolation to tell them, well, your 16% is much lower than the 27% for some other degrees. But, what I would say is that you need to extend your search. All chemistry majors don't have to become chemists and first evaluate what your competencies are, sit down and you can go to the end O*NET site, discover what your knowledge, skills and abilities are, what your interests are and look outside of that. 40% of jobs require STEM competencies today that are not your traditional chemist, mathematician, actuary job. They're way beyond that, so just broaden that set and you can have a lot of opportunities outside of the chemist occupation.I've heard Dr. Harwell talk a few times, but I don't think I've ever heard him grok the #chemjobs problem for younger chemists as well as he does here. "Broken covenant" is a great way to put it. And the answers that he gets are appalling -- the VP for Human Resources basically tells him that, from where she sits, he's wrong, and the economist basically tells him to tell students to look elsewhere (gee, no kidding.)
I don't know what kind of long game the STEM shortage myth makers are playing, but it is clear that (much like many of us) when they are confronted with contrary evidence, they dismiss it pretty easily.