Many undergraduates who completed a bachelor's degree in chemistry did not go to graduate school or medical school, but entered the chemical industry.When considering the need to change the way students receive chemistry education, it is important to consider from the perspective of the industry and ask whether the major employers of these students see the need for change. To solve this problem, seminar participants listened to brief presentations from four industry insiders. After Shannon Bullard, the project manager of the Human Resources Department of DuPont Chemical Company, gave a speech, an open discussion began; Francine Palmer, Director of Research and Innovation of Solvay; David Harwell, Assistant Director of Career Management and Development of the American Chemical Society (ACS); and "Carpet America" Robert Peoples, executive director of the Rejuvenation Project.
Shannon Bullard leads DuPont's recruitment program for bachelor's degree scientists and engineers. From her perspective, she doesn't see the urgent need for major reforms to undergraduate courses. However, she does see some opportunities for improvement, especially in providing technical flexibility to graduates. Nowadays, in the industrial field, the needs of customers have changed, so DuPont needs its assistant researcher, that is, its bachelor's degree researcher, to have knowledge and confidence and skills to move smoothly between different areas of the company. She explained: “We need scientists who know how to think, have a technical background, and are curious, but they don’t necessarily specialize in a particular discipline.” The ability to think and solve problems is the key, because the company focuses on how to help solve Those bigger issues in the world were mentioned in the previous conference.
Brad said another area worth paying attention to is internships and undergraduate research. When students enter the industry, having laboratory experience and putting the knowledge learned in the classroom into practice will give them a great advantage.
Francine Palmer said that in her view, learning the basics of chemistry is still the key. She said: "We found from recruitment that more and more graduates are entering the professional field earlier, which limits their potential to learn and grow in industry organizations." Graduates are in the fields of biochemistry or materials science. It is good to have strong skills, but they still need to have a broad understanding of the basics of chemistry.
She said that equally important is the so-called soft skills-cooperation and communication-students can learn in the classroom, but more through research experience, internships and collaborative projects. She explained: “We met many very smart students, but they were unable to express their opinions or formulate corresponding answers, which made it difficult to collaborate in a large research group.”
David Havel is the director of career planning at ACS. He cares about three groups: students, unemployed workers and long-term unemployed workers. Students are at the top of his list because their unemployment rate has reached 13.3% in all fields and all degree levels. For chemists with only a bachelor's degree, the unemployment rate one year after graduation is 14.6%. In contrast, the unemployment rate of replaced chemists is only slightly higher than 4%. Harwell said the difference between these two groups is experience. This field needs to create more internship opportunities and other ways to allow students to gain practical experience. He added that undergraduate research is a good choice.
An area highlighted by the industry that has not received much attention in academia is safety and safety culture. Palmer strongly agrees with this view. The other method is to work in a team. The composition of the team is always changing with the various stages of project development. A scientist with a specific skill may be assigned to a new team that needs that skill multiple times during his career. He reiterated Brad's view on the necessity of technical flexibility. Harwell said that recent graduates also lack connections, or at least they think they are lacking, chemistry needs to start teaching students how to use the connections of former students and former undergraduate research team members. Havel agreed with Palmer's suggestion to give students more exposure to the soft skills they need to succeed in industry.