The Chemical Industries Association and Cogent Skills published the output from a series of executive roundtables on the future skills requirements of the chemical sector.


Future skills for the chemical industries cover image

Future skills for the chemical industries

 This report makes an important contribution to our understanding of the sector’s current position on skills at a critical time. We look forward to working together to address the challenges outlined in this report.



About CIA

About Cogent Skills


Background and Methodology

Setting a Path to Net-Zero

2.1 Measuring carbon footprint

2.2 Skills for sustainability

2.3 Demand for higher qualifications

2.4 Updated skill sets

2.5 An attraction and perception opportunity

Industry 4.0

3.1 Size of workforce

3.2 Skills gaps

3.3 Recruitment challenges

3.4 Changing perceptions

Developing the Future

4.1 Internal training

4.2 Apprenticeships

4.3 Industry ready graduates

4.4 Equality, Diversity & Inclusion

4.5 Careers Outreach

Conclusions and recommendations

National statistics

6.1 Gender profile

6.2 Age profile

6.3 Qualifications

6.4 Leaving the European Union 

The UK chemicals sector is a key enabler for achieving Net-Zero. The sector provides many of the technologies needed to transition to a low carbon economy, and our highly skilled, technically advanced workforce can play a leading role in the charge for industrial decarbonisation.

As a major contributor to the UK economy, adding more than £18bn every year, the sector is also making substantial progress on its operations, continuously working to reduce its carbon footprint whilst remaining competitive on the global stage. However, the industry also understands societal expectations and recognises the need to do more.

The insight in this report highlights the influence of Net-Zero and the introduction of new digital technologies as two significant and emerging trends expected to fundamentally alter the day-to-day operations and working practices of chemical businesses in the coming years.

There is a clear need to advance these agendas to maintain and grow the sector’s competitive position in global markets. However, the rapidly evolving nature of these trends means that there is still so much unknown, and companies will need time and support to adjust and prepare for the world ahead. This is especially true given the hugely disruptive impacts of Brexit, COVID-19, the cost of living squeeze and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

At its core, this is a skills issue with some employers lacking the relevant experience and understanding to capitalise on advancements in technology. With that in mind, collaboration between sector companies is key to creating a shared understanding of critical issues and sharing best practice and examples of best use cases.

Although these trends present a significant challenge, they also represent an opportunity to reinvent the sector and engage with the next generation of highly skilled workers.

We know that the proportion of workers in the sector qualified to a degree level has risen significantly over the past decade. Employers predict the demand for higher-level skills will increase further and be particularly acute in the short to medium term. The demand for innovation, R&D and engineering skills will be extensive throughout the economy and competing for them is already a challenge. The best and the brightest want to work in innovative companies using cutting edge technology and making a difference.

Therefore, we must recognise the move toward Net-Zero and Industry 4.0 as an attraction and perception opportunity. Now more than ever, it is important that chemical companies live up to the standards and expectations of the modern workforce. This also means a solid commitment to ED&I and a proactive approach to promoting the breadth of rewarding career pathways available in the sector. It is also increasingly important to promote a culture of lifelong learning and provide genuine opportunities for career development among existing employees to minimise the impact of an ageing workforce.

Apprenticeships have traditionally provided a reliable entry point into the sector and must be protected and enhanced to keep up with the evolving needs of the industry. They are also a valuable tool as companies look to find innovative ways of upskilling and reskilling workers into future-ready roles.