Building Future Workforce Part of Plan to Transform Chemical Industry

Like many, the chemical industry is concerned about having enough future workers to meet its needs. As part of a five-year, $50 million initiative to transform its industry, the American Chemical Society plans to focus on four areas, including building a skilled workforce.

Transformation. It’s a simple word, with a bold meaning, and what the American Chemical Society (ACS) hopes to achieve for its industry. To do that, the group will invest $50 million over the next five years on what it says are four transformational areas. Key among those is an initiative to expand and diversify the industry’s future workforce.

“Our goal is to increase awareness of and ensure accurate information about careers in the skilled technical workforce within the chemical enterprise,” said Terri Chambers, senior director, ACS Education. “This is essential to communicating the importance of and pathways to opportunities for chemical technical professionals. Our goal is also to enable greater collaboration of a wide and diverse network of stakeholders.”

While many have associated current labor shortages with the pandemic, many have been predicted for a long time. Back in 2017, a National Academies report predicted a shortage of 3.4 million “skilled technical” workers by this year. And a recent Korn Ferry report estimates a talent deficit of 85 million workers by 2030.

“In the context of the chemical enterprise, the skilled technical workforce includes a wide variety of chemical technical professional roles vital to the chemical industry and the U.S. economy,” Chambers said.

By putting funding behind the workforce initiative, ACS hopes to create a talent pipeline for its members. The three other initiatives that will be funded focus on sustainable development, accelerating digital research, and adding curated content. ACS is not disclosing how the $50 million will be divided among the priorities.

A Three-Pronged Mission

The workforce program, which ACS is calling the Strategic Initiative on Fostering a Skilled Technical Workforce, will “support the recruitment and development of a diverse group of students and potential employees in the chemical sciences in order to build capacity to address the aforementioned workforce needs,” Chambers said.

The program will also build on previous industry efforts that partnered academia with businesses to bolster interest in the chemical industry and build skills needed. The particulars of the strategies employed are still being designed, but Chambers said the program will focus on three primary outcomes:

  • Increase knowledge of and the successful pursuit of skilled technical jobs. 
  • Increase capacity among high school and two-year college educators and career-services experts to prepare a skilled technical workforce.
  • Increase connections between employers and two-year colleges resulting in partnerships and potential interns and future employees who are more knowledgeable of and better prepared for technical careers.

While the initiative is scheduled to last for five-years, ACS is hoping to follow in the path of the Starship Enterprise, which turned its five-year run into a “continuing” mission that far outlived the original timeline. “The initiative is designed to be scalable so that its impacts extend beyond that initial period,” Chambers said.

Building the future workforce is just as important to members as it is to ACS leadership. Chambers said ACS chose this as one of the four strategic projects because members have been talking about it for years.

“Development and implementation of the initiative will include the involvement and engagement of a whole range of ACS members and member groups,” Chambers said. It will also build on a collection of activities that ACS already offers, according to Chambers.

How is your organization investing in its industry’s future workforce? Share in the comments.

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Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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