The challenge of attracting and retaining skilled individuals is at the forefront of minds across industries. Tim Doggett, CEO of the Chemical Business Association (CBA), looks at what the chemical supply chain is doing to ensure a sustainable skills pipeline.

To maintain and support the chemical industry, a large and complex supply chain requiring a wide range of skills is in place. Unfortunately, due to several reasons – among them the fact that many skilled and experienced employees are eyeing retirement, a shortage of talent among the generation set to replace them, and the general negative perceptions or lack of awareness of the industry as an employer of choice due to stereotypes and negative perceptions – the sector faces a potential skills shortage in the future.

To attract great and diverse talent, the negative view of the chemical supply chain industry must change. This can only be achieved if chemical companies proactively combat stereotypes by advocating for their organisations, and by informing the public of the industry’s overarching value.

Additionally, more needs to be done to clarify what careers in the chemical supply chain and the wider sector involve and to encourage the younger generation to look at the opportunities that exist. Clearly articulating job roles and highlighting the pathways into them can effectively contribute to raising awareness of the sector’s importance and can inspire future generations with diverse interests and skillsets to join.

Of course, talent retention is equally important. To avoid losing employees to competitors or other industries, chemical supply chain companies must commit to prioritising effective skills development, either by offering vocational training and skills programmes or by supporting opportunities for continuous learning.

Engaging all stakeholders

Recognising the potential growing skills gap in the chemical supply chain and the wider chemical sector, the CBA has launched several initiatives in recent years.

Most recently, it introduced the People & Skills Hub, a dynamic network that brings together all stakeholders, including education partners, aspiring professionals, industry experts and thought leaders from the complete chemical supply chain. Acting as a platform for businesses of all sizes to engage with existing and emerging talent, the Hub bridges the gap between talent and opportunity through knowledge exchange and facilitates skills development and career advancement via a comprehensive range of resources, outreach programmes, and networking opportunities, catering to individuals of all aspirations and abilities.

In 2022, the Association established its Future Council, bringing together young people with a diverse variety of skills and roles from its member companies. Its objectives include educating, sharing skills and raising awareness to help young people enhance their understanding of the chemical supply chain by sharing their experience and knowledge at a range of events Founding the Future Council was preceded by the Young Person’s Award, launched in 2019 with the goal of recognising excellence within the chemical supply chain.

The CBA has joined forces with the Department for Transport and other membership organisations in launching Generation Logistics, an industry-led campaign aimed at getting more young people into logistics careers by bringing industry together, shifting perceptions, and encouraging the next generation to optimise opportunities in the logistics industry, from entry-level pathways to graduate programmes. The initiative is going into year two with impressive results, having collectively reached an audience of over 415 million, with website visits of nearly 600,000 and more than 4 million social media interactions.

Beyond talent

Equality, diversity, and inclusion (ED&I) are essential aspects of attracting and retaining talent. In recent years, the chemical sector has become serious about addressing ED&I, with businesses across the chemical supply chain ensuring that policies and legislation are continuously revised, that training and development opportunities are accessible, and that best practices for creating more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments are in place.

Similarly, in an effort to proactively channel young people’s motivation to solve climate change and environmental issues into pursuing careers in the chemical sector, companies have been focussing on sustainable strategies and strengthening their net zero commitments. Many, including the CBA, are actively involved with the Responsible Care (RC) programme, a global, voluntary initiative which provides an ethical framework for the safe and sustainable use and handling of chemical products.

To ensure that there is a pipeline of skilled employees that will allow the chemical sector to continue to innovate and grow, it must be showcased as an exciting and promising industry in which to build a career. To achieve this, every industry stakeholder must work towards attracting, developing, and retaining the necessary talent.

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