Issue Date: May 14, 2007
V. Michael Mautino, chair of the Committee on Technician Affairs (CTA), remembers the days, not so long ago, when chemical technicians weren't eligible for membership in the American Chemical Society. In fact, it wasn't until 2001 that chemical technicians could become full members without receiving special approval from the ACS Admissions Committee.
Those days are over, and technicians are making their presence felt in ACS more and more each year. These changes are due in large part to CTA's efforts to increase the visibility of chemical technicians within the society.
And there are a lot of chemical technicians in the U.S. According to 2005 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 360,000 chemistry-based technicians in the U.S., and that number is projected to grow a total of 3.1% through 2014. In comparison, there were 82,000 chemists in the U.S. in 2005, with a projected growth of 7.3% through 2014.
"The goal is for CTA to serve as the voice for the technician community in ACS governance," says Mautino, who worked for Bayer MaterialScience as a chemical technician for 14 years before becoming a marketing representative for the company. Currently, chemical professionals with a bachelor's or an associate's degree and five years of related work experience are eligible for full ACS membership.
Mautino says the committee continues to push for a more broadly based ACS membership so that technicians, including recent graduates of associate programs, can join and participate fully in the society's activities. The committee works closely with the Division of Chemical Technicians (TECH) to offer a variety of resources.
In 2006, during the fall national meeting in San Francisco, CTA and TECH took part in sponsoring the "Equipping the 2015 Chemical Technology Workforce" presidential event, which highlighted resources available to chemical technicians from industry, academia, professional societies, and workforce organizations. This year, CTA and TECH are offering $500 mini-grants to fund activities that support education and career development.
CTA also works with the Chemical Technology Program Approval Service (CTPAS), which is a subcommittee of the Society Committee on Education. CTPAS grants ACS approval and provides resources to qualified two-year chemical technology education programs. The committee also provides information for the ACS ChemTechLinks website and collaborates with the Committee on Economic & Professional Affairs (CEPA) to provide career materials for chemical technicians.
In addition, CTA manages the ACS Chemistry-Based Technology Student Recognition Award, which honors students who excel in two- or four-year degree programs in chemical technology.
The committee makes a special effort to reach out to students and raise awareness about technician careers. Last year, CTA worked with the Office of High School Chemistry, which oversees ACS-sponsored high school chemistry clubs, to provide information on technician careers to students.
ACS established the Committee on Technician Activities in 1964 on the basis of recommendations of an ad hoc committee on technician activities. The committee became an "Other Committee of Council" in 1966 and soon began encouraging chemical technicians to organize their own symposia at ACS national meetings.
In the early 1980s, ACS allowed chemical technicians to be admitted to full or associate membership if they were approved by the Admissions Committee. In 2000, during the fall national meeting, the ACS Council approved changing the technician-focused committee's name to the Committee on Technician Affairs. In 2001, the ACS Council clarified the process to admit chemical technicians to the society as full members without requiring additional documentation.
Currently, CTA has three subcommittees: the Awareness Subcommittee, which communicates the important contributions that technicians make to the chemical enterprise; the Technician Subcommittee, which deals with increasing the standing of technicians in ACS; and the ACS Subcommittee, which concentrates on the relevance of ACS to technicians.
"We want to reach out to those who are in chemical technology programs so that they know there is a professional society for them in their chosen career path," Mautino says. "But at the same time, we also want to make sure those who are already in the career are taking advantage of the benefits offered by the society."
CTA hopes to build on the momentum it has generated. "Most of what we're going to be doing this year is building on what we've been doing," says Blake Aronson, ACS staff liaison to CTA. "We're trying to get people to see technicians as professionals, not just people with technical jobs."
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