Issue Date: April 10, 2017
From education to career readiness: Bridging the gap through mentorship
The American Chemical Society believes “in the power of chemistry and the chemical enterprise to provide solutions to the world’s most pressing problems” (2017 Strategic Plan). ACS promotes the chemical enterprise by supporting investments in education, training, entrepreneurship, and innovation.
As chair of the Society Committee on Education (SOCED), I am particularly interested in the society’s investments in education, as these activities are essential to supporting career pathways into and throughout the chemistry enterprise.
SOCED’s mission specifically addresses recruiting students into the chemical sciences and retaining them as contributors throughout their careers. I see a critical connection between education and the career readiness necessary to advance the chemical enterprise and to address global challenges.
ACS offers a number of resources to support students in their exploration of and preparation for careers in chemistry. The College to Career website (www.acs.org/collegetocareer) introduces students from high school through graduate education to a wide range of chemistry careers. The website features profiles of more than 90 chemists, offering insights on careers, professional skills needed, and steps for getting started.
Publications available through the ACS Education Division also support students with valuable information about careers in chemistry. At the high school level, ChemMatters magazine provides a glimpse into the diverse professional experiences of chemists. The online magazine inChemistry supports undergraduate student members as they consider graduate school, navigate the job market, and develop their professional skills. And the monthly Career Ladder column in Chemical & Engineering News serves as a window into how chemists across the enterprise launched their careers.
Moreover, the interactive ChemIDP (www.chemidp.org) is an individual development planning tool designed to help graduate students and postdoctoral scholars prepare for rewarding careers.
And the ACS Career Navigator delivers a robust suite of offerings, including professional education, leadership development, career services, and market intelligence, that provide chemistry professionals with a competitive advantage.
Building a network through local communities can plant the seed for professional development experiences that enable career readiness for students.
The ACS high school chemistry clubs offer students the opportunity to connect chemistry to their world; this includes gaining familiarity with and increasing exposure to chemists in their own communities.
Members of ACS student chapters participate in a wide range of programs and activities that enhance their college experience and prepare them for successful careers.
In some areas, ACS local sections interact with both high school chemistry clubs and ACS student chapters, leveraging authentic and local connections between chemists and students at varying levels in their chemistry education.
Although resources and networks are important, they cannot always provide the necessary guidance, information, support, or learning opportunities in the context of an individual student’s experiences. Mentors are essential in bridging this gap.
Many professionals across disciplines readily tout the importance of having a mentor as they navigate their careers. Mentors may also offer much-needed career and psychosocial support for students at all educational levels. Mentors sponsor and coach students and identify networking opportunities that cultivate their blossoming careers. Providing encouragement, support, and a listening ear and serving as a role model are also functions that a mentor might serve.
A number of ACS programs offer mentoring for students at varying stages in their chemistry education. Project SEED offers economically disadvantaged high school students the opportunity to perform college-level scientific research under the supervision of a volunteer scientist-mentor. The ACS Scholars Program strongly encourages student-participants to consider partnering with a mentor throughout their undergraduate careers.
Mentoring also provides a valuable mechanism for lifelong learning. For example, in the ACS-Hach Second Career and Post-Baccalaureate Teacher Scholarships, program alumni work closely with a mentor-teacher for the first three years of their high school teaching careers. Upon launching their careers, a team of volunteer ACS experts is available to members to assist via e-mail and phone with almost any career issue, including résumé preparation, job search strategies, and interviewing techniques.
Given the expertise and passion of ACS members, mentoring represents a great opportunity for involvement in the still-developing careers of students. Mentoring can take many forms; traditional mentoring, peer mentoring, and network mentoring are examples of possible approaches to consider.
Mentoring can have a positive impact on the career trajectories of students, and SOCED is considering additional avenues through which the society can provide infrastructure and support for mentoring activities.
What is working in your organization or community with respect to mentoring students at varying stages of their chemistry education? What are some of the challenges? We welcome input from the entire ACS community on this important topic. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas and feedback.
Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.
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