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ACS Comments

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August 29, 2011
Volume 89, Number 35
pp. 41

Chemists Care About Jobs

Valerie J. Kuck, ACS Director-At-Large

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Valerie J. Kuck Peter Cutts Photography

At the American Chemical Society, we’re not just concerned about jobs, we’re doing something about them—helping our members find work, develop new job opportunities, and reinvigorate the economy.

This is the fourth in a series of Comments launched earlier this month by ACS President Nancy B. Jackson (C&EN, Aug. 8, page 52). All of these Comments are dedicated to the theme “Paying It Forward,” in which members help members find jobs.

With U.S. unemployment standing at more than 9%, more than 14 million Americans are out of work. And these figures do not include 8.6 million involuntary part-time workers (that is, individuals working part-time because their hours were cut or they were unable to find a full-time job) or 2.7 million people marginally attached to the labor force.

Chemical workers have fared better than others, with a national unemployment rate of 3.8%. However, that figure doesn’t tell the whole story. As Lisa M. Balbes explained in her Comment (C&EN, Aug. 15, page 38), recent graduates in chemistry and chemical engineering are finding it particularly tough to land their first placements. Unfortunately, some have even given up on a career in chemistry, which is disheartening for all of us, because new talent brings new ideas and new vitality to the field.

National employment statistics also hide some significant regional differences. Figures from the ACS Comprehensive Salary Survey show that the highest unemployment rates for chemists are in the Middle Atlantic (5.8%) and Pacific (5.4%) Regions. Both regions were particularly hard-hit, first by mergers and acquisitions in the pharmaceutical industry and then by the economic downturn. On the other hand, the Mountain and West South Central Regions have fared well. Both have 1.9% unemployment rates for chemical workers. Visit the ACS Employment Dashboard at webapps.acs.org/acsdash for an interactive graphical representation of regional employment trends in chemistry.

Knowing which regions offer better employment prospects is helpful to some of our unemployed ACS members. However, many members can’t easily relocate. They may have spouses or partners with local jobs, children in school, family or friends who are dependent on them, or a house they can’t sell in a bad real estate market. They need our help.

We urge all members—particularly in hard-hit regions—to pay it forward by identifying and sharing employment opportunities.

Fortunately, ACS has more than 163,000 members. We urge all members—particularly in hard-hit regions—to pay it forward by identifying and sharing employment opportunities. First, please post any job leads you have at www.acs.org/payingitforward. Second, get in touch with ACS local sections and ACS technical divisions to let them know about these job opportunities.

Many of the 187 ACS local sections throughout the U.S. have job clubs that would greatly appreciate learning of open positions. ACS technical divisions, the programming units of the society, offer another way of disseminating employment opportunities. Select the division that is most aligned with the open jobs that you’ve identified, contact the division chair, and share your valuable information. Most divisions have websites, newsletters, job boards, or Listservs to distribute the leads that you provide.

If you are currently unemployed, especially if you’re in a region where the job market is particularly poor, we urge you to form a job club if one is not currently up and running in your area. A job club enables you to form a strong support network. Members look out for each other, pass along leads, and offer constructive advice. Job clubs also create greater efficiency and economies of scale. Individual members can be assigned to investigate employment prospects for particular companies or job sectors and then report back to the club. By working together and pooling resources, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts.

Your efforts will make a difference. Bill Suits, a retired chemist and active ACS career consultant, for example, has been working with Careers in Transition, a job club sponsored by the North Jersey Section of ACS. Suits not only participates in the club’s monthly meetings, but he also provides one-on-one coaching sessions to help local ACS members build their networks, prepare targeted résumés, improve their interviewing skills, identify job opportunities, and design comprehensive career plans. According to Suits, “Over 50% of jobs are hidden.” Helping people in his local area land those hidden jobs has become his mission. Find out more about Careers in Transition at www.njacs.org.

You can also visit ACS Careers at www.acs.org/careers to take advantage of a broad range of member resources to find a job, start a new job club, build job-search skills, and much more.

ACS is committed to getting chemists back to work. By paying it forward, we can help each other find employment, create new job opportunities, and set the U.S. economy back on track to prosperity.

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

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society
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