Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Tough to find chemists in the Sacramento area?

In this week's issue of Chemical and Engineering News, an article about the demand for bench-level analytical chemists by Rick Mullin and an interesting comment about Ampac Fine Chemicals and their needs for analytical chemists: 
...Ampac Fine Chemicals recently quadrupled its analytical chemistry capacity, adding 1,200 m2 of laboratory space at a facility near El Dorado Hills, Calif. The contract manufacturer also brought in new technology, including X-ray powder diffraction, particle-size distribution, and dissolution testing capabilities, along with 10 liquid chromatography units. 
The firm has added 20 analytical chemists with the expansion, according to Chief Executive Officer Aslam Malik, and will likely hire as many more over the next 18 months. 
The hiring stems from an increased need to analyze the complex chemistry of new drugs, Malik says, plus a general concern among customers about data integrity. “We are looking more closely at the genotoxic impurities and doing heavy-metal analyses,” he says. Meanwhile, measurement instrumentation has advanced from “prehistoric” methods to cutting-edge technology, raising the skill level required of chemists and the stakes for Ampac in staffing. 
“It’s always tough to find good chemists, but more so on the analytical side,” Malik says. “The market is tight.” 
One advantage for Ampac, Malik says, is that the company is a primary employer of pharmaceutical analytical chemists in the Sacramento area. “When people get done in school here, they want to hang around. So we have been lucky. Still, finding very technically qualified people is tough.”...
The whole article is worth a read, if only to hear how industrial folks think about this problem and how academic folks think about it as well.

That last statement seems to be "we do not have a competitor in town to poach chemists from", which I can't get very worked up about. It seems to me that between UC-Davis and CSU-Sacramento, they could get all the fresh new college grads that they could want. Maybe I'm wrong, but it would seem that they could poach plenty of folks from the Bay Area in terms of getting folks with more experience? I dunno.

More later... 

19 comments:

  1. What I'm personally curious about is to what extent privately held analytical services companies are being employed to analyze and characterize mixtures in street drugs, given the meth and opioid epidemics, as well as the prevalence of new designer drugs. Seems like a whac-a-mole problem, so you'd expect growth in this area.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not like on TV. Most defendants will plead guilty for a reduced - i.e. less draconian - sentence. There is very rarely a need for police to ever confirm the identity of a controlled substance. You'd be surprised how lame most police forensics actually is. A friend of mine was a biology professor and had friends on the local police- they once asked to use her microscope, as they didn't have one of their own. This was in a major urban area, not some cowsplat in the middle of nowhere.

      Delete
  2. From their website for the associate QC chemist position...

    "There are multiple openings in the QC Department. These are temporary to possible full time positions"

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ampac has been advertising for chemists for over a decade now and have been noted on this blog as a revolving door of job postings (much like Syngenta). While I agree Davis and Sac State have enough people to fill the pipeline, I don't think it's as easy to draw people away from other parts of the Bay. Sacramento is 2 hrs away from South SF and people who like the climate and cultural offerings that SF has to offer aren't going to love Sacramento. I know several people that have moved there out of necessity because of the astronomical cost of living in the Bay, so for those folks Ampac is probably a good option, although I still wonder whether it's a good company since the turnover seems constant.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think there are other factors too other than Sacramento being uncool and hot. For one, it's easier to job hop in the bay area without relocation. For another, there are a lot more two career couples who can make it work in the bay area than in Sacramento just because the job market is bigger in more sectors.

      Delete
    2. I suspect it's very dependent on the situation. The cost of living in the Bay Area is making things horrible for anyone who is renting or looking to buy a house. I grew up in the south bay and worked there for many years. Many of my childhood friends moved to Sac, so I've spent a lot of time there. Some former coworkers either got jobs there and moved, or moved there after they retired. It's kind of sprawling and suburban, so it's not really that much different from living in the San Jose area - just a bit hotter and a lot cheaper. I would've considered relocating there from the South Bay if the right opportunity came along.

      Delete
  4. A typical comment to such article should say "pay them more and you won't have a problem finding people"...but I am truly curious if offering higher salaries is a guarantee that you'll get good employees? Can anyone comment?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No - higher salaries won't insure you won't find duds, but paying them is likely to make it easier to recruit good people (so that the average person you hire is better).

      Considering their inability to keep people (if Dr. Zoidberg is correct), the money would seem to be an obvious reason why. At minimum, not paying low salaries in a high-cost area would help (it's easier to poach when paying area average is a pay bump; people don't want their future salary expectations for future jobs downgraded).

      Delete
    2. Since we're talking about analytical, my experience and cynicism tells me that that's precisely the problem. With about half of the analytical postings I've seen with salary listed had laughable wages. As in "any professional who has to pay rent in this area and has student loans will see their quality of life and health immediately plummet." They're too cheap to actually pay more, so they're just running PR to drum up more applicants while talking about how completely not-saturated the market is, promise!

      With low analytical wages, it's one thing if it's strictly doing technician work for a canned, straight forward technique, but most postings also require a ridiculous amount of direct experience that would almost guarantee that you're above that level.

      Delete
  5. Sacramento? I think the original quote read : “It’s always tough to find good chemists, but more so on the analytical side,” Malik says. “The market is hella tight.”

    ReplyDelete
  6. It is tough to find chemists and the reason is simple. Chemists have left the area or not taking job. The companies you speak of do not pay enough to sustain a family. That said, I am just curious what is the going rate for freshly minted PhD, MS or BS candidates.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This. If analytical chem jobs were so hot, they wouldn't be paying unlivable wages (I swear, if I see one more $20/hr position in the Bay Area, I'm gunna flip a table.)

      Delete
    2. $20/hr? Unless you're working 60hrs per week and getting 1.5x overtime, that's gotta be the crappiest thing I've ever seen for a STEM college grad, let alone someone with a grad degree. My old labmates would not accept temp contract jobs in tiny, podunk towns for $20-22/hr because they thought it was too low for a PhD; can't imagine McDonalds/walmart type places are that far off in the bay area for pay.

      Delete
    3. It's sweatshop labor really...follow the written SOP, rinse and repeat. It could be done by somebody with a HS education (at the level they once were.

      Delete
    4. People like Chief Executive Officer Aslam Malik, are the crap we are left with! These are the same people who let us down. I am better of turning burgers and blend in!

      Delete
  7. I am a chemist-turned-engineer. I went to grad school in Davis, and I like the area. When I was looking for work, Sacramento area salaries were WAY behind the bay area (WAY more than the cost of living difference too). When I was last looking, Silicon Valley jobs were paying roughly twice what Sacramento area jobs were paying. It sounds like Ampac wants to pay too little in a high-salary-adjacent location.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have been told Sac isn't THAT bad for cost of living comparative to the rest of the state. I've heard a decent wage is around $75-80k/yr being moderate when I was considering to apply to AMPAC. I just don't like Cali at all, regardless of location in the state.

      Delete
    2. I actually don't think Sac is that bad for cost of living at all as far as cities go. In fact, I used to live in Austin and the rent/housing cost was on a whole a little cheaper in Sac than Austin. Even though it's not the bay area, it's got nice access to wine country, lake tahoe, etc.

      Delete
  8. CJ, I don't know where the Ampac reps are getting their information that "the market is tight". I've applied to several (10+) positions through their website and never got a response. I also tried reaching out to people in the company through LinkedIn and other media, and they never got back. Companies like these will say these things, even if they are complete lies, in order to justify their actions.

    ReplyDelete