Guest Column - Russell Boyd
Bright prospects for chemical job hunters
By Russell Boyd
Canadian Business magazine published an article in their April 30 issue entitled “Where the Jobs Are,” that struck a chord for me. The editors surveyed data on employment and wage levels for more than 600 occupations tracked by Statistics Canada. They selected jobs with at least 10,000 employed individuals and ones that experienced employment growth between 2006 and 2011. They eliminated jobs with median salaries below $60,000. The final list of the 50 best-paying, highest-demand career choices today is based on three criteria: job growth from 2006 to 2011, median compensation in 2011, and the change in the median compensation from 2006 to 2011. The weightings assigned to the three criteria were 50, 40 and 10 per cent, respectively.
Of course, I immediately thought of the oil sands and sure enough number one on the list is petroleum engineer, the person who figures out how to get the oil out of the oil sands. According to Canadian Business, it is the fastestgrowing occupation in Canada, with employment increasing by 85 per cent between 2006 and 2011 and a median salary of $92,002 in 2011. I was not surprised to see that number two is nursing supervisor given our aging population. Employment in this category has increased by 46 per cent in the past five years and the median salary reached $74,880 in 2011. Electrical and telecommunications contractors are number three on the list with a 2011 median salary of $69,160, while data analysts are in the number four position at $66,040. The growth in these two categories — 67 per cent and 64 per cent, respectively — is not surprising given the importance of information and communications technology and the impact it has on our society.
I was delighted to see that Canadian Business placed chemist and chemical engineer in the number five position with a five-year growth rate of 53 per cent and 2011 median salary of $67,330. Initially, I thought that the need might be tied to the oil sands and that the article would emphasize chemical engineering. (In fact, the story points out that the oil and gas, and metals and mining sectors pay chemical engineers better than other sectors, but they employ only about 7 per cent of the profession. About 70 per cent of chemical engineers work in manufacturing and related sectors as diverse as waste management, pharmaceuticals and food processing.) As a chemistry graduate, I was gratified to see that the article mentioned that chemists are needed for many reasons, including seeking out new sources of energy. The full range of opportunities for chemists was not outlined, but two areas of growing demand were noted: the environment and water-related fields, and workplace safety and health.
I think this is very encouraging and it makes me optimistic about the future demand for chemists and chemical engineers. It is apparent that the formal education of chemists and chemical engineers prepares them to be problem solvers and leaders in many fields. (And if the stature of Angela Merkel — physical chemist and German chancellor — is any indication, this includes the elected leaders of G8 countries.) The CIC has an important role to play in serving these future leaders in the chemical sciences and engineering, and making sure their contributions are recognized and their potential maximized. One important thing for us to do is to continue to improve communications with CIC members and key stakeholders whose decisions have both direct and indirect impacts on our members and the CIC and its Constituent Societies. Much has been achieved in the area of communications in the recent past, but much remains to be done to engage and communicate with our younger members and the next generation of members. Also, we must continue to build stronger ties to industry and to make sure that the CIC does not miss out on opportunities in areas such as biotechnology and materials science. I thank all members of the CIC for the opportunity to be the Chair of your board. I will do my best to serve the interests of the CIC.
Russell Boyd is the 2012-2013 Chair of the Board of Directors of the Chemical Institute of Canada and a professor in the Department of Chemistry at Dalhousie University.
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