Chemistry failing in battle for STEM recruits warns industry survey
15 Feb 2018
Shortcomings in academic teaching are making it harder to recruit STEM students as professional chemists, claims a new industry report.
Science publisher Elsevier’s Reaxys team of chemistry specialists interviewed nearly 200 leading professionals working in the sector about the challenges of hiring new talent.
More than one in three said professional chemistry was now in crisis because of the inability to recruit sufficient STEM students. A further 51% said the situation would shortly reach crisis point.
Much of the blame was placed on perceived deficiencies in the university curriculum, with three fifths of those surveyed blaming a lack of involvement in solving ‘real world problems’.
Tim Hoctor, vice president of life science solutions services at Elsevier remarked:
“Current curricula should be examined to ensure that knowledge and theoretical basics are balanced with learning to think creatively and scientifically about how to solve practical problems.
“Preparing students for jobs and problems that are changing as technologies transform industries is a challenge – but equipping students with tech expertise will be crucial.”
The report also warns that chemistry is suffering from a negative perception that has made it less able to compete for students against other disciplines.
Adapting to expectations can provide a significant competitive advantage in the competition for young talent, and failure to do so could see companies being left behind.”
Christina Valimaki, senior director for chemicals, Elsevier
Nearly 80% of scientists questioned said that other scientific fields had achieved more ‘newsworthy’ breakthroughs.
More than half felt that society at large had no understanding of the role chemists played in finding solutions to the world’s major environmental challenges, with more than a quarter saying that chemistry’s reputation for not being innovative or ‘green’ impeded recruitment.
Christina Valimaki, senior director for chemicals at Elsevier said there was a challenge for companies as well as academia.
“A quarter of those surveyed said that a career in chemistry could involve uninteresting work and poor remuneration – unless such perceptions change, it doesn’t matter what educational institutions do.
“Companies need to ensure chemists have the creative freedom to pursue potential breakthroughs and support them with the tools and technology they need. Adapting to these expectations can provide a significant competitive advantage in the competition for young talent, and failure to do so could see companies being left behind.”
The Elsevier survey also identified the key paths to career advancement. Skill in handling new technologies was highlighted by 84% of respondents.
Also cited were cross-disciplinary knowledge and the ability to collaborate with researchers in other fields and present a commercial case for research funds
See here for full details of the Elsevier Reaxys survey.