I would hazard a guess that most of the unemployed chemical engineers are over the age of 50 – and are at the top of their game and top of their salary range. Every company wants an experienced worker, but is unwilling to pay for it. Therefore, they hire engineers with 5-10 years of experience – just enough to know a few things, but not enough to command a high salary. What these companies fail to realize is that the older workers are worth the extra money.
We will soon get to a point where employers are going to have to change their hiring criteria. There aren't enough junior workers to fill all the jobs, so they will have to reach out to more seasoned engineers. At this point, they will have to pay for that experience; however, by the time this happens, I suspect most of them will have retired to somewhere warm and sunny and won't consider going back to work for any company that mistreated them all these years. And the company will suffer and the economy will suffer.
Not sure there is a solution in there, but maybe a realization among company managers that engineers are worth the extra money. I continually fail to understand why people in management and finance command salaries significantly higher than engineers. Perhaps we don't do enough of a job tooting our own horn and letting people know how valuable we really are.
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While I liked many of the answers given by the others so far, I strongly disagree with your point #3 and your conclusion.
Moors law applies to our industry the same way it applies to the electronics industry.
Just as the prices of computer memory drops with time, so does the value of some tasks a chemical engineer used to do.
If you define a chemical engineer as so someone who does these 'old tasks', then yes Chemical Engineers salaries will always be going down.
However, if you define a Chemical Engineer as someone who: "applies the principles of chemistry, biology, physics, and math to solve problems that involve the production or use of chemicals, fuel, drugs, food, and many other products." Then Chemical Engineers are needed more than ever before.
With 7 billion people on the planet, we need to get the most out of our efforts making and using chemicals, fuel, drugs, and food. The demand and need are higher than ever before.
Bright ambitious people have always been attracted to our profession. Limiting who can join us would be a huge mistake.
We have a global economy today. That means the whole world is potentially your client. It also means that whole world is free to come up with a better solution than the one in place. A colleague I know offers ways of optimizing chemical operations, not for a salary, but for a percentage of the cost savings. If you are just selling your labor, you are competing with other laborers and your wages will continue to go down. If you are on top solving problems, you are still a Chemical Engineer and should not worry about the number of new people coming into our profession.