Chemical technology education fosters sustainable development and opens doors to employment
Graduates of Aalto University School of Chemical Engineering find employment in some of Finland’s largest industries: the chemical, forest and technology industries. However, operators in the industries are concerned about the sufficiency of educated, competent workforce. In the future, an increasing number of youths should be attracted to studies focusing on the industry. School of Chemical Engineering graduates are equipped with the skills and know-how to develop solutions to challenges related to, for example, the climate, the environment, energy and materials. Not only the future of the industry, but in fact, the future of the Earth is dependent on these matters.
“The industry’s great employment opportunities came to us as a surprise”, says Vita Davydova, Olari Upper Secondary School student, who participated in the workshop organised by the School of Chemical Engineering.
The knowledge of good employment opportunities is not by any means an unimportant pull factor among youths.
The goal of the workshop organised in late February was to discuss the means to increase youths’ interest towards studies at the School of Chemical Engineering. The participants – comprised of university personnel, stakeholder representatives, upper secondary school students, teachers and guidance counsellors – discussed questions such as what kind of study-related information they would like to be provided with. Upper secondary school students had a clear answer to the question: the information should be as concrete as possible. For youths, information about the structure of studies or the number of credits to be attained is of low relevance. Instead, they would like to know which subjects they have to study in order to be employed in certain professions. However, the titles of Project Engineer or Consultant do not tell much about the professional’s assignments. Thus, more concrete descriptions of professions and work duties are required to attract youths’ attention.
Youths prefer listening to other youths, that is, university students or recent graduates. In addition to information related to studies and career choices, they would like to hear about the everyday student life and its differences to upper secondary school studying.
“It would be nice to read a blog about student life, for example.”
Teachers and guidance counsellors, too, would like to hear more about everything related to studies and studying. For example, guidance counsellor breakfast events have been organised at the School of Chemical Engineering for years with the purpose of providing information on the School’s study opportunities and sharing alumni’s career stories. The educators praised the events and expressed a wish for more events that would be intended not only for guidance counsellors but for other teachers as well. Guidance counsellors, teachers and upper secondary school students alike would like to visit laboratories so that they could observe and perhaps even try laboratory work in practice.
There are plenty of interesting facts to tell about industries represented by the School of Chemical Engineering, for example, in the fields of circular economy and bioeconomy. Youths are interested in new research projects and innovations and of their implications to people.
Upper secondary school students’ wish list includes a lecture series that would be held by researchers and would provide participants with a study attainment.
The workshop highlighted the significance of collaboration. It is easier to achieve an increased awareness and improved visibility jointly with stakeholders such as associations and professional organisations operating in the chemical, forest and technology industries. Companies operating in these industries can contribute by offering youths work experience through, for example, the work practice program TET. The School of Chemical Engineering has had TET trainees as well. These short practice periods may have remarkable impacts on youths’ future career choices.
In the workshop, upper secondary school students offered valuable viewpoints and opinions. It is important to keep listening to what youths have to say as they know best what they need to know to support their study choices.