At the beginning of the month, I contacted the 3 ACS presidential candidates
, Bryan Balazs, Charles Kolb, Jr. and Diane Grob Schmidt and asked them if they would like to comment on jobs related to chemistry employment and unemployment. Dr. Schmidt responded yesterday; her response was delayed by jury duty.
CJ: Which ACS program do you think best helps the job-seeking ACS member? How would you improve it?
From my perspective, the Career Fairs where employers and job seekers are connected directly seem to be the most effective for members in getting a job. Balancing supply and demand has been problematic and complex. On the front of keeping a job, lifelong learning by keeping oneself employable is key. ACS offers a number of chemical courses through Sci -Mind and job hunting skills through Career Services, for example. Leadership skills development is provided via the ACS Leadership Institute. The many tools that ACS offers to job seekers was recently outlined in C&EN to help create awareness of what is available to job seekers.
In terms of improving career fairs specifically, reaching out beyond the major, global corporations to midsized and smaller firms to participate in career fairs is an opportunity area.
CJ: Is it ACS policy to get more students to study in STEM fields, specifically chemistry? If so, how do we reconcile the fact that wages for chemists are stagnant or falling? Does this argue against the idea of a STEM shortage and the need for more STEM students?
The long term good of the nation and its ability to innovate requires scientific and technical competence. The prosperity of the country depends on innovation. More talented students entering STEM fields vs. other career alternatives would be a plus for the nation and our economy. There are fewer students coming from abroad to the U.S. and staying. There is an advocacy opportunity to update our Visa system. The funding and numbers issue is a complex one because of the long lead time to “produce”/educate a scientist. However, one thing is for certain: if we do not train them, we will not have them in the future when the nation needs them. A capable, trained workforce is a critically, important factor to building and sustaining a thriving economy.
More attention to preparing students to enter industry merits attention. The reality is the majority of the jobs are in industry. We still need to keep the pipeline of talent flowing to build our economy.
Regarding salaries, the 2012 ACS salary survey states that salaries
have weathered the 2007-2009 recession. It further states that chemists’ salaries are back to pre-recession levels. While this is encouraging, improvement in salaries is still needed to recognize the value contributed by chemists.
The landscape of employment opportunities is clearly challenging. The reality of a global economy and a global workforce is the landscape in which job seekers must compete.
- On actual employment, approximately three hundred thousand (not all chemists, but plenty of chemists) have lost good pharma jobs in the past ten years. In fact, the average is quoted as being about 42,000/ yr. based on a quick Google search.
- Government cuts: Our chemist colleagues in government, who are currently coping with both the sequester and the recent government. “furlough”, have certainly experienced income losses.
- Grant Seekers: Our chemist colleagues who are applying to government agencies grants likely have current thoughts and data from their experiences with the grant process.
CJ: Each ACS Presidential candidate, for at least the past decade, knows the challenging job market facing ACS members and inevitably speaks of growing jobs in the U.S. Specifically, what tangible steps would you take to increase the number of chemistry jobs in the U.S., and is this something you really think is achievable?
Dr. Schmidt: The reality is that ACS alone cannot create jobs. ACS can, however, help create a climate for job creation in the U.S. via its advocacy programs. It is a time for bold action regarding jobs. I welcome ideas and suggestions from your readers.
Steps I envision for growing U.S. jobs include:
Advocacy: Increasing our ACS advocacy efforts at the federal, state and local levels. The return on investment of R&D funding is significant vs. other spending options. Our elected government officials are key partners in helping increase jobs and build our nation’s economy. The ACS Government Affairs Groups, as well as the advocacy consortia ACS works with on shared issues of concern like jobs are key avenues to amplify our efforts to create more jobs for chemists.
Education: More attention to preparing students to enter industry merits attention. The reality is the majority of the jobs are in industry. A capable, trained workforce is an important factor in a thriving economy.
Certainly it is an important factor in an industry’s decision of where to locate their operations.
Identify new models to connect and create "job rich environments": There are many technology transfer units on university campuses to connect and partner with industry. A model to connect academia, industry, government labs and non-profits is a relatively unexplored arena for potential job creation. I believe there is great opportunity there to ignite and release some untapped job creation.
CJ: How would you describe ACS' response to the Great Recession and the increase in unemployment amongst its members? How should ACS respond to similar situations in the future?
Dr. Schmidt: There were many mixed messages and interpretations from the media on the impact and duration of the economic realities that became the Great Recession. The ACS had in place contingency plans to assure the financial sustainability of ACS and the services it provides to the members, including the many career services that ACS provides to members.
Services to unemployed members did increase during this period, e.g. the ACS on-Line Job Club. The magnitude of the increase in unemployment during the Great Recession, however, seemed greater than these efforts could address.
Stepped up advocacy for a national infrastructure that attracts employment is needed now and in the future. By creating a nation where there are well educated technical professionals and an infrastructure ready to support and embrace the future and the changes that come with it are needed.