Throughout this blog, I have made a conscious effort to promote career options for chemical engineers (see my blog ‘Ten job titles of chemical engineers… and what they actually mean‘). But many chemical engineers do not work as chemical engineers, so today I thought I would highlight some alternative careers.
When I speak to chemical engineers, there is lots of discussion about the sectors they work in: energy; water; food; pharma and more.
However, I often hear people saying that the big issue in the professional science and engineering community is retention of people.
In the UK, the phrase ‘leaky pipeline’ has been used to describe science and engineering graduates that leave their fields to pursue careers in other areas – the finger is normally pointed at finance or investment banking.
But I don’t see this as problem, because you don’t have to practise chemical engineering to be a chemical engineer. I am pleased that other professions actively seek to recruit chemical engineers – because of the skills they have (see my blog ‘Ten skills chemical engineers should be talking about‘) and the calibre of our chemical engineering graduates.
People working in alternative fields still use their science and engineering knowledge and skills, but just apply it in different ways; for example in teaching, policy work or patent law.
Every so often, I get to meet some of these people. They may not work in the process industries but they still make a valuable contribution to our profession.
One such person doing an excellent job of this is Yvonne Baker, the Chief Executive of MyScience. Yvonne is a chartered chemical engineer and she believes passionately in the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) careers and the contribution they make to our society.
MyScience operates the UK National Science Learning Centre and the National STEM Centre.
The National Science Learning Centre provides professional development for science teachers, technicians and lecturers. This supports schools and their students; providing excellent education and improved awareness.
The National STEM Centre is a STEM teaching and learning resource. This facility brings together business, industry, professional institutions (like IChemE), other charities and those interested in STEM education.
Yvonne was formerly the Chief Executive of STEMNET (the STEM Network). This UK-based network of volunteers creates opportunities to inspire young people, of all backgrounds in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Many IChemE members are also STEMNET volunteers.
In her role, Yvonne has engaged with government. Most recently she wrote to the UK Secretary of State for Education outlining the importance of science and maths in school education. Her work is vital to the future of today’s children and the economy. She’s also made a valuable contribution to encouraging more girls to study STEM subjects.
I know that the UK is not alone – many of our members around world are involved in this valuable work – both as the day job, and as volunteers.
Throughout my time as President of IChemE, I have had the opportunity to meet many of these people so I think it’s important to say thank you!
Thank you to those who are involved in the non-traditional areas, but who still represent the chemical engineering profession. And a particular thanks to everyone who is a volunteer; both those who inspire people about chemical engineering and those who help IChemE.
If you are interested in volunteering to promote and improve our chemical engineering community please visit the IChemE website for more information.
2 thoughts on “You don’t have to practise chemical engineering to be a chemical engineer (Day 349)”
I think that’s an excellent idea. Interacting with teachers and parents, as well as young people at school, will help ensure that our message is being reinforced on a more regular basis and that the value and excitement of STEM, for study and for careers, reaches more and more youngsters as early in life as possible.
Many thanks for your comments and for your daily thoughts on the ChemEng365 blog of the day. Your ideas are noted and I appreciate you keeping me and my elves on our toes!
Geoff, I have been involved in STEMNET but I dropped our due to pressure of work. I still think that it is a good idea but the main problem is that schools have so little idea of the outside world that many of the requests that I received were rather strange. I think the most useful thing that I did was help with mathematics.
In my opininon to make this more useful it would be a good idea to have sessions for teachers before we start work with the students.