Chemical industry starts to shine through clouds

In its third year, Chemical Processing’s online salary and job satisfaction survey results provides reasons for optimism. The record 1,830 survey respondents’ answers indicate salaries, raises, bonuses and job satisfaction are all moving in a positive direction.

By Ken Schnepf, managing editor

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The hours and workload was selected by 488 or 30.4% of participants as what they dislike most about their jobs. This was closely followed by the company work environment which concerened 469 or 29.2% of respondents most. “As an older chemist, I've found the core work remains exciting and challenging, but there seems to be much more ‘extraneous stuff’ that has nothing to do with what I'm really excited about,” explains one participant. “What I mean is there seems to be more attempt to control and measure the output of technical workers. This is demotivating and stifles creative processes.”

Split on public perceptions

Half of this year’s survey respondents say that negative public perception of the industry bothers them, while the other half say that it does not (Figure 3). The same was true for those who responded to the 2006 survey.

Click to enlarge image.

“There isn’t much I can do to change the public's perception of the chemical and oil industries,” says a respondent. “It’s certainly more exciting to the visual and print media to show explosions, derailed trains and fires rather than explain to the public what they get from these industries versus what their parents or their grandparents had. The amount of free time people have now is much greater than it was 50 years ago. The chemical and oil industries have played a big part in this happening indirectly.”

Job security

Chemical engineers remain confident about their job security (Figure 4).

Most respondents (875 or 51.6%) believe there is either no chance or a very slight chance that they will be laid off within two years. Another 437 or 25.8% believe the chances of a layoff are slight, with 290 or 17.1% saying there is a moderate chance, 60 or 3.5% believing it is likely and just 34 or 2% who say it is very likely. However, respondents’ comments show a bit of uneasiness about the future.

“I like the work I do, but there is a great many things that could be improved,” says a participant. “With the decline in manufacturing and increased international outsourcing, I worry about the work environment our children will face.”

A number of survey participants say, in various ways, that the industry is losing too many jobs overseas and that they would not advise younger people to get into the field. Several respondents identified concerns about China taking jobs away from the U.S.

“It is difficult to have longevity with a single employer anymore,” says a respondent. “The business climate encourages many to ‘do more with less,’ so companies often let good employees go because they need a quick change to their bottom line. Individuals have to remain aware that loyalty and service to a company doesn't guarantee that they'll be kept if reorganization occurs.”

Still, based on this year’s survey results, things are brightening up.

Winner of iPod

Vincent Vellella, president, Veletec Corp., Moon Township, Pa. is the randomly selected winner of the 30GB video iPod offered by Chemical Processing for participating this year’s survey. We appreciate all the respondents’ answers and comments.

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