WHAT INDUSTRY SEEKS | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 90 Issue 24 | pp. 49-51
Issue Date: June 11, 2012 | Web Date: June 12, 2012

What Industry Seeks

Skills Gap Impacts ACS Career Fair
Department: Career & Employment
Keywords: employment, skills gap, industry, internship

For many recruiters, the career fair at the American Chemical Society national meetings is one of the best places to find top-notch talent. But some are finding it difficult to find the right candidates.

“We’ve been recruiting at the ACS career fair for almost 14 years now, and when we started out, there were so many good candidates that we really had a hard time deciding who we were going to interview,” recruiter Stephan Rodewald told C&EN during the career fair in San Diego this past March.

“What we’ve noticed, within the time span of about 10 years or so, is that it’s now completely reversed,” said Rodewald, who is a research chemist at Goodyear Tire & Rubber. “We have trouble filling all the interview time slots with candidates that we think are qualified for the positions that we have. And when we actually take a chance on them and invite them out for closer scrutiny, often we find that they’re really lacking in terms of key skill sets.”

Rodewald believes that graduate students aren’t getting the preparation they need to work in industry. “It may be a situation where the time that is available for professors to spend with their students and to ensure that they get proper training has just diminished,” he said.

More academic-industry partnerships could help ease the situation, Rodewald said. “I think a lot more industrial research needs to be done in partnership with academic institutions,” he explained. “I think professors are realizing that one way they can help provide a future for their students in a responsible way is to have these industrial contacts and to nurture them.”

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Jim  (June 18, 2012 1:33 PM)
C&EN keeps talking about the "skills gap" but never once mentions what skills exactly candidates are lacking. Is it because they can't think of even a single real one?
Kirk  (July 5, 2012 2:53 PM)
I agree Jim, if the article or at least Goodyear Tire & Rubber could be a bit more specific it might actually help people.
Nick  (July 31, 2012 12:43 PM)
I agree with Jim and Kirk. It makes it hard to assess where the problem is in the skills gap when you don't know what skills are missing. Are these people missing abilities to manage and conduct multiple research projects simultaneously (an issue with training) or are they lacking experience with a specific technique/instrument, which is more an issue with companies.
Richard  (July 31, 2012 12:45 PM)
I agree with Jim too. I wonder if the problem is that the skill sets companies are looking for are so specific that only someone who already did the jobs could meet the specific requirements. Skills are easy to learn, they just don't want to or can't invest any time in training. I regularly see ads that require specific experiences on specific brands and models of instruments for PhD level research positions. How trivial is that? Shouldn't they be looking for a track record of success and not a list of specific experiences?
Alex  (July 31, 2012 11:02 PM)
Well to start with, most "industry-required skill sets" that are not ultra position specific (large batch polyvinyl material synthesis, anyone?) usually requires an internship (or partnerships as mentioned in the article, which are few and far between given the lack of industry funding for the past few years) before you know it's important. And industrial internship is sadly lacking for chem grads these days since, well, your grad research is an "internship" for your academic position.

Let's just pick one generic skill almost every industry position requires: presentation. You would think going through graduate school gives you sufficient training in presentation. NOT! Successful professors come to hour-long seminars with 100+ slides choked with big-picture fluffs (cure cancer, end hunger, bring world peace) followed by endless strings of raw data. In industry? You're asked to explain your stuff with one or two slides within five minutes. So yeah, from the industry viewpoint the students are far from getting any "proper training".
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