A lot has changed since the American Chemical Society established the Committee on Technician Affairs (CTA) in 1964.
Historically, chemical technicians were considered to be “a pair of hands” in the laboratory, primarily tasked with routine or less-specialized work. The highest degree that chemical technicians attained was often an associate’s degree.
Today’s chemical technicians are performing important work in industry and academia, and they are valued members of the field. Many chemical technicians have earned bachelor’s or master’s degrees, and they hold a variety of titles, such as process operator, laboratory analyst, technologist, and research associate.
The committee continues to broaden and strengthen the portfolio of resources it offers to chemical technicians. I had the privilege of being a part of the most recent transformation, which occurred under the leadership of Kara Allen, who served as chair of the committee from 2016 to 2017.
Allen took up her role as chair by setting up a strategic planning retreat in late 2016, where the committee crafted a new mission statement: “Support and advance the chemical technical professional through career development and recognition.” It also created a new vision statement: “To be the essential resource for chemical technical professionals.”
Since that time, CTA has been working to increase its professional development offerings for chemical technicians. In late 2017, the Professional Development Subcommittee presented CTA’s first webinar, “Exploring Non-Ph.D. Careers in Industrial Chemistry & the Essential Benefits of an ACS Membership.” The webinar briefly profiled two chemists, providing a snapshot of their day-to-day activities, and explored the benefits of ACS membership for chemical industrial professionals. More than 130 people attended the live webinar. Of those, 105 indicated an interest in learning more about CTA, and 53 wanted to learn more about ACS membership.
CTA has also worked to reinvigorate and promote its robust awards programs. In particular, the number of applicants for the National Chemical Technician Award rose significantly in 2017, attracting nominations from a broad range of companies. The committee also increased promotion of its ACS Chemical Technology Student Award, which honors top students earning associate’s or bachelor’s degrees with the goal of joining the industrial workforce. Earlier this year, the committee recognized 14 students, each from a different college or university, with this honor.
In an effort to build stronger connections with other committees and groups within ACS, CTA’s recently appointed program chair has stepped up the committee’s involvement in cosponsored programs. At the 2018 spring ACS national meeting in New Orleans, CTA cosponsored a symposium titled “Water Supply Safety,” which was organized by the Division of Chemical Health & Safety.
At the 2018 fall ACS national meeting in Boston, CTA will cosponsor two symposia. The first, organized by the Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Division, will allow bachelor’s and master’s chemists and engineers to present their work as well as career advice to attendees. The second will honor winners of the Technical Achievements in Organic Chemistry Award, given by the Division of Organic Chemistry for outstanding contributions by professional chemists holding a bachelor’s or master’s degree and pursuing careers in industrial or government sectors. CTA is actively seeking future cosponsorship and programming opportunities within ACS.
Earlier this year, when I took over as chair of the committee, I established the Technician Taskforce, aimed at identifying whom CTA serves and how we can best accommodate them. The task force will identify the industry segments that employ technicians and generate a list of job titles and descriptions, along with the educational level required for these positions. After we have generated this list, we intend to use it to identify ACS members as well as nonmembers who are technicians so that we can better understand what CTA can do for them and increase ACS membership.
As the committee gathers information to better understand and define the makeup of the chemical technician community, we invite your input. If you are a chemical technician, or if you frequently work with technicians, we encourage you and your colleagues to complete the demographic survey located on the CTA website at http://technicians.sites.acs.org/.
We hope to gather as much information as possible to ensure that we are best targeting and serving this diverse and important part of our ACS community.
For more information about CTA or to inquire about working with or serving on the committee, visit our website at www.acs.org/cta.
Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.