AGE PLAYS A FACTOR
A greater number of older respondents chimed in this year, with the average age jumping from 48 in past surveys to 51. In fact, 62% are 50 and older — up from 53% last year. Exactly one quarter of all respondents are at, or nearing, retirement age. In contrast, only 4% are under 30.
Age impacts their job situation, griped some, noting their salaries were capped, and their years on the job restricted their ability to find work elsewhere. Here's what a few had to say:
"I have hit the ceiling for promotions and therefore my salary growth is very limited also. The only reason I am staying with the company is medical benefits and defined pension payments for retirement. The workload is becoming overwhelming and the expectations of corporate people who sit at a desk all day are unrealistic."
"[I'm] generally well paid but as you get older you will be less paid in regards to yearly increases. Companies assume you will not change jobs due to age," says another.
"Age is a big factor, and new hires out of college cost less, are more energetic and have little experience but you get two of them to replace one (55 to 70) experienced engineer. Cost, cost and more cost is what most industrial plants are concerned with, not direct knowledge and experience about the process and equipment."
FUTURE OF ENGINEERING
In the U.S., economic growth reports are positive, the housing market is slowly recovering and the lure of cheaper energy due to shale gas is driving more chemical companies to invest. The Wall Street Journal reports that chemical giant BASF plans to invest $4 billion in the U.S. over the next 3 years.
Our January cover story also points to this rebound in the industry (see "U.S. Chemical Industry Gets Into Better Tune"). Another recent survey shows chemical industry executives are optimistic about the future prospects (see "Chemicals CEOs' Optimism Grows" for more details).
As the economy continues to improve and more engineers begin to retire, the future is bright for the next generation of chemical engineers.
"The shale [gas] revolution is the beginning of a U.S. energy boom — take advantage of it, and take charge of your own career direction," one respondent advised potential chemical engineering majors.
As the government and industry promote more students to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers, more engineers will likely join the workforce. And respondents seem aware of this trend, as more than half (60%) shared their thoughts on the industry and offered advice for the next generation.
"Get into process control NOW," suggests one respondent. "Very old aging staff, [with] few young people," he adds.
How the Data Were Gathered
A total of 1,487 people participated in this year's survey.
From January through March, respondents accessed the survey questionnaire via a link listed on www.ChemicalProcessing.com, in e-newsletters and in e-mail blasts sent to subscribers. Additionally, those who follow Chemical Processing on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn were encouraged to take part.
Congratulations to Drawing Winners!
Ten lucky respondents received gift cards to vendors of their choice. The winners, randomly selected via www.random.org are:
David Caillet, engineer, Louisiana DEQ
Jim Callaway, president, PowderTech, LLC
Francesco Cappi, corporate production manager, Mapei
Dan Hannewald, operations engineer, BASF Corp
Danny Haynes, sr. technical coordinator, AkzoNobel
Nancy Krempa, CEO/president, Astral Products
Kevin Kutsch, sr. project engineer, Alliant Energy
Tim Noonkester, development associate, Eastman Chemical
Doug Sanders, production manager, Henkel Corporation
John Stewart, engineering fellow
We appreciate the answers and comments we received from all of this year's survey participants.