Demand in the chemical industry for production management graduates is expected to show strong growth over the next few years, according to a survey by the Chemical Industries Association.
Vince Harris, CIA's director of education, said the finding partly reflected firms' optimism for the sector over the medium term and concerns over a worldwide shortage of high-quality production management graduates. In five years' time, the greatest demand is expected to be for skilled and semi-skilled process operators and IT staff.
The survey covered 320 chemical companies in the United Kingdom with a total workforce of 129,000. The CIA believes it is the first survey profiling employment, training and skills patterns in the industry.
Mr Harris said the sector's reliance on a highly trained workforce is shown by the survey finding that 25 per cent of employees are graduates, 80 per cent boast NVQ level 3 or above and one in ten is a researcher.
"The industry is facing many pressures over the next few years and will be looking to take on top-quality graduates to address them," he said. These pressures include demands on the sector to become more environmentally friendly as well as the global restructuring of the industry.
The survey suggests the industry is highly committed to education and training. Sixty per cent of UK firms employing more than 1,000 people already have Investors in People status, and 99 per cent supported off-the-job training, with over 70 per cent offering distance or open learning for staff. Over 60 per cent were involved in training apprentices and 70 per cent in training graduates.
Industry demand for competence-based qualifications is also increasing. The CIA is about to launch two level 5 NVQs, one in analytical chemistry and another in chemical engineering, to help address the demand.
The qualifications have been developed in collaboration with the awarding body Vocational Qualifications in Science, Engineering and Technology:
"Competence-based qualifications are valued extremely highly by the industry and are increasingly being demanded by the industry's regulatory bodies."