Memorandum submitted by the Chemical Industries
1. The Chemical Industries Association,
(CIA), is the leading trade body representing the UK chemical
industry. With gross output valued at around £49 billion,
and a trade surplus of over £4 billion, the UK chemical sector
is manufacturing industry's number one export earner. We spend
over £3 billion on research and development annually, and
we require a large number of scientists and engineers in order
to maintain, and retain, a thriving and innovative chemical industry
in the United Kingdom.
2. As a lead trade and employer organisation,
we believe we have a role in supporting mainstream education,
but our response is written from the viewpoint of an industry
that uses the output of the education system and so gives an overview
of our needs rather than referring to specific details of the
curriculum as we believe there are others best placed to do this.
Nevertheless we are confident that our response will provide useful
background for the Select Committee's deliberations.
3. Research and development in industry
have moved on to encompass continuous innovation, foresight, knowledge
management and its use, and the impact of information, communication
and technology (ICT). The CIA believes that the process for students
to acquire these generic skills begins at school and continues
through University, and the acquisition of these skills is absolutely
vital if they are to survive in a society where individuals are
likely to have a number of careers during their lifetime.
4. Scientists and engineers in the chemical
industry can no longer continue to exist and work solely in a
single discipline, or at one functional boundary, but are required
to be much more flexible operating at the multi-disciplinary interface.
Hence, there is a need to encourage the hunger for creativity
coupled with an entrepreneurial/innovative mind-set are absolutely
vital to the UK chemical industry if it is to be successful in
a "knowledge-driven economy", and survive in the global
5. The public perception of science and
engineering is poor and this needs to be improved if young people
are to be attracted to it. Although this is easier said than done
in a society that is prepared to accept the benefits of science
whilst being largely technically illiterate and easily swayed
by the populist media, the CIA believes that both government and
industry have to develop joint strategies to tackle the image
problem to build an enthusiasm for the subjects in young people.
6. The chemical industry would, therefore,
like to see an education system that provides all young people
with an accurate and realistic understanding of the importance
of science based industries to social, economic and environmental
development and the skills and knowledge to assess the risks and
benefits of science and technology and to contribute to public
debate and decision making about the progress and direction of
scientific research and development.
7. A key contributor in this is the quality
of science teaching which needs to be improved especially in single
subject sciences. The practical side of science also needs to
be improved with better facilities and technical support.
8. Of equal importance is showing young
people the opportunities open to them in science based industries
like ours so that they can relate what they learn at school to
real-life situations and processes. A recent OFSTED report, "A
summary of careers education and guidance in schools" criticised
the quality of careers tuition within schools. It found that one
in two teachers of careers are insufficiently trained for careers
work and that only one third of co-ordinators hold a recognised
careers qualification. Overall, it appears that the information
available to students at a time when they are making career-influencing
decisions is both limited in scope and inconsistent. It is therefore
vital to not only have properly trained teachers to teach science
but also properly trained careers advisors.
9. We believe that poor science and technology
teaching in schools undoubtedly results in problems at university
level with the need for institutions to make students undergo
remedial lessons in order to upgrade their scientific knowledge
to a satisfactory level before they can commence with their degree-level
course. For example, it has been observed that many students are
weaker than those entering university education 10 years ago because
they are accepted onto science and engineering courses without
a rigorous background in Maths and Physics. They then struggle
to complete the course and having done so are glad to put it behind
10. The market place for highly skilled
scientists and engineers is a global one and an increasing number
of chemical companies are recruiting overseas candidates, in particular
from Continental Europe, for a number of reasons including:
A shortage of technically able candidates
in the UK in disciplines such as chemical engineering and analytical
The quality and technical competence
of an overseas candidate is superior to a UK candidate. This has
been cited by a number of companies aided by the willingness of
European scientists and engineers to relocate to this country.
11. Finally, we are playing our part to
promote a better image of science and engineering and the chemical
industry by showing a more enthusiastic, vibrant face of the chemical
industry and have set up The Chemical Industry Young Persons'
Network website: www.ypnet.org.uk.
We believe this will show the breadth of career
opportunities available to young people in the chemical industry,
that there are real people working in industry with the same beliefs,
aspirations and questions as the next person and encourage young
people in schools and universities and those who educate them
to enter into dialogue and debate on issues about scientific research
and on the impact and contribution of the chemical industry with
the young people in our industry. We are very proud of the young
people in the chemical industry and believe they make excellent
role models for other young people.