Industrial Chemicals Workers
Industrial chemicals workers play a key role in chemical manufacturing whether the industry is producing basic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, paints, food, or a myriad of other products. The companies vary in size, depending on the nature of the products they produce. Some large industrial chemicals companies (DuPont and Dow Chemical Company, for example) may make the chemicals they use in their own operations. Others purchase what they need from specialty chemical companies, such as Avantor.
Basic chemicals, such as sodium hydroxide and nitric acid, are usually made by giant companies while small companies may make fine or specialty chemicals to supply to other manufacturers. Some of the duties are involved in the actual production process; others concern the equipment used in manufacturing; still others test finished products to ensure that they meet industry and government standards of purity and safety. There are a number of government laboratories, such as those operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, that employ chemical workers.
High school graduates qualify for entry-level factory jobs as helpers, laborers, and material movers. They learn how to handle chemicals safely and acquire skills that enable them to advance to higher levels of responsibility. Students interested in a job in the industrial chemicals industry should look for information on job openings through classified ads and employment agencies. Information can also be obtained by contacting the personnel offices of individual chemical plants and local union offices of the International Chemical Workers Union and the United Steelworkers of America). High school and college guidance and job placement offices are other knowledgeable sources.
Movement into higher paying jobs is possible with increased experience and on-the-job training. Advancement usually requires mastery of advanced skills. Employers often offer classes for those who want to improve their skills and advance their careers.
Most workers start as laborers or unskilled helpers. They can advance to mechanic and installer jobs through formal vocational or in-house training. Or they can move up to positions as skilled operators of complex processes. They may become operators who monitor the flow and mix ratio of chemicals as they go through the production process. Experienced and well-trained production workers can advance to become supervisors overseeing an entire process.
Tips for Entry
Take shop and chemistry classes in high school that might give some experience with hands-on production.
Volunteer or find a part-time job involving production or management; this will increase your chances of acquiring an entry-level job and provide experience for a future supervisor position.
Research professional organizations or unions, such as the International Chemical Workers Union, for resources and information.
Contact a local chemical plant and arrange for a tour or an interview with a manager or worker.