How To Reach C&ENACS Membership Number


June 17, 2002
Volume 80, Number 24
CENEAR 80 24 p. 36
ISSN 0009-2347





Chemical technicians want to be respected as the professionals they are and for the value their work brings to the scientific community.

There are estimated to be up to 250,000 chemical laboratory and chemical process technicians working in the chemical and allied industries today. Both the American Chemical Society Committee on Technician Affairs (CTA) and Division of Chemical Technicians (TECH) are trying to bring more of these technicians into ACS. When recruiting new members, we are often faced with responses like these: "Why should I join? My boss won't support a trip to a national ACS meeting for me"; "It seems as though the only people who gain benefits from their membership in TECH and the ACS are the officers and committee members"; and "What do I get for my membership dollars?"

First, what kind of benefits are technicians looking for in a professional organization? Stephen R. Barley, a professor at Stanford University who has studied the technician sector of the workforce, described what technicians want in a single word--"respect" (the first R). Chemical technicians want to be respected as the professionals they are and for the value their work brings to the scientific community.

Both CTA and TECH have raised the level of awareness of the professionalism and technical contributions of technicians both to the chemical enterprise and to its other practitioners (chemists, engineers, etc.) There have been major changes in the acceptance of technicians within ACS during the past 10 years. TECH attained full division status in 1994, and just last year a bylaw change clarified the requirements for membership in ACS. The bylaws now clearly state that those with an associate degree in chemistry or chemical technology and five years of applicable experience are qualified for membership. By making this clarification, ACS has made it clear technicians are welcome to join other professionals in the society.

What benefits do TECH or ACS officers and committee members get that other members might not? Perhaps some more respect and some "recognition" (the second R) for the volunteer work they do in ACS. Those who volunteer to take on positions in ACS have the opportunity to develop their communication, organizational, interpersonal, decision-making, and leadership skills. The development of these skills leads to recognition of the individual as a leader within ACS. These skills can also be leveraged in the workplace. Because of these skills, technicians are being offered new opportunities--there are multiple examples where technician leadership skills in ACS played a prominent role in promotions and new jobs.

Will joining TECH or ACS result in getting respect and recognition? Let's put a different perspective on it--as a TECH member once stated, "If all you are going to do after paying your dues is be a member, your money is better spent on beer." Those who are active stand to gain the most benefits. In every organization, members get benefits in proportion to what they put into it. All that ACS, CTA, and TECH can really do is offer opportunities to people. Whether or not they take advantage of those opportunities is really beyond the society's control.

Can we make it easier for people unable to attend national meetings to take a more active role? Of course. Some of the plans to use the Internet more effectively may help. But people still will have to make the effort to participate--these opportunities will not just drop into their laps, nor should they. People have to take "responsibility" (the third R) for their own development. If they can't get support to attend a national meeting, they can seek to participate at a regional meeting or organize something on the local level. For several years, members of technician groups affiliated with local sections have been organizing symposia and poster sessions. Again, those who organized these activities as well as those who participated received recognition and benefits. Technician Affiliate Groups (TAGs) offer the same kinds of benefits as TECH, but on the local level. TECH members who cannot attend national meetings can join or start a local group. But that takes the acceptance of responsibility and the dedication of personal effort and time.

TECH's mission statement reads: "To provide professional growth opportunities to all individuals working with, or interested in, chemical technology." This reinforces the idea of people taking responsibility for their own development. After all, even the highest quality seeds cannot take root and grow unless the farmer takes the responsibility to plant, water, and fertilize them. So we should use the "Three Rs" to cultivate professional respect for technicians in business, in education, in ACS--and in ourselves.


The Committee on Technician Activities (CTA) will meet at the upcoming ACS national meeting in Boston. The open meeting will take place Sunday, Aug. 18, at 2:05 PM (see page 88 for the agenda and location). In addition, the Division of Chemical Technicians (TECH) is planning several symposia (see page 52). "Electronic Notebooks & Systems for Knowledge Management in R&D" is cosponsored with the Division of Chemical Information and "Generation and Analysis of Product Variants" is cosponsored with the Division of Biochemical Technology.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of the ACS committee.


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Copyright © 2002 American Chemical Society

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