Increase transparency in chemical education and employment. ACS should continue to convey the benefits chemistry provides to our lives; however, we must also convey that there is no shortage of traditional chemists. The following 2016–26 Bureau of Labor Statistics projections (data.bls.gov/projections/occupationProj) highlight shifting dynamics in chemical employment: biochemists and biophysicists: +11.3%, post-secondary chemistry teachers: +9.9%, chemists: +6.5%, chemical technicians: +3.9%, chemical engineers: +2.5%, chemical plant and system operators: –3.1%, and chemical equipment operators: –3.6%. (CJ's note: as a benchmark, all jobs are expected to increase at a rate of 7% for the next 10 years.) Meanwhile, ACS New Graduate Survey data show new graduate unemployment growing disproportionately faster than ACS member unemployment. Inflation-adjusted salaries for new graduates at all degree levels are flat or decreasing. These trends also hold for more experienced ACS members. Employment information about the wide range of chemistry careers should be provided to aid students in career decisions.
Review and revise higher education programs to prepare students for the changing employment options of chemists and chemical professionals. The educational system provides outstanding researchers, but the demand for them is far below the supply. For each faculty opening, dozens to hundreds of chemists apply. Some applicants hold two to three postdoctoral positions, broadening their experiences while seeking an academic appointment.
Current chemistry degree course requirements are misaligned with employer expectations of graduates’ skills. Employers seek individuals who have practical work experience and are technologically savvy and have foundational skills such as adaptability, problem-solving ability, and leadership skills. Yet many college graduates entering the labor pool aren’t equipped with these essential skills.
Graduates need educational programs to supply and strengthen these skills. Social, cultural, and professional training, applied courses, and internships can improve postgraduate employability. ACS-approved degree programs should be evaluated for their use in producing employable chemists. Cross-functional training, which bridges new and traditional fields of chemistry, should be evaluated for its impact on student employment prospects.
There are other policy prescriptions, but I'd like to mention that the top two are, in my opinion, correctly prioritized. I think that the Comment fails to note that the projections are issued every two years, so they are likely to change. (Also, I think it's important to note that "post-secondary chemistry teachers"
covers everyone from adjuncts to full professors - where do we think the job growth is happening?)
I'm a bit bemused at basically making a 'soft skills' argument about chemistry graduates - does anyone really think that the reason that chemistry B.S. holders aren't being hired is that they don't have enough adaptability? I would point the finger straight at the overall lack of entry-level bachelor's oriented positions. I do commend the Task Force (and Comment) for suggesting that "ACS-approved degree programs should be evaluated for their use in producing employable chemists." I'd like to hear more about this.
It's good that the ACS is thinking about this, and I thank immediate-past President Nelson for bringing it to the fore. I encourage the Task Force to think more about it, and to provide policy prescriptions that the Society and its membership to act on. Moreover, I ask the Task Force (and the Society) two more questions:
1. In 2018, will we have the same statistical tools or better statistical tools for quantitatively determining the quality of the United States chemistry job market than we did in 2008?
2. What is the Society doing to prepare its membership for the next recession? \
Readers, what are your questions?