Human capital is essential for the transition to a circular economy

Human Capital Agenda: we need people with new skills


The past year, the job market for process technologists has found itself under a deep pressure. At this moment, there is an historical shortage of process engineering students at both MBO and HBO levels. That while the Energy Transition requires specialized workers and a range of different skills. The Human Capital Agenda hopes to promote better quality, equivalence and accessibility of training and studies to facilitate the energy- and material transition. But how?

A job market under pressure

The chemical sector will face a significant shortage of workers in the coming years. That’s according to a survey by VNCI. The supply in jobs is high, but the number of educated people is decreasing. Currently, the number of MBO jobs has increased by 600% and the number of jobs at the HBO and University level have doubled as compared to 2014. A worrisome development, because every year, fewer and fewer people apply for chemical engineering courses, especially at an MBO and HBO level.

  • Compared to 2020, there was a 10% drop in MBO applications
  • Compared to 2014 it is even a 41% drop
  • At HBO level, we see a 13% percent drop in applications in 2021 relative to 2014
  • Furthermore, the sector is further struggling with a 12% outflow due to ageing

Male-female ratio about to break-even

Luckily, there is not only bad news. The Top Sector Chemicals report also offers us some positive insights. For example, the number of female students in the chemical sector has increased significantly. In chemistry courses at the HBO level, the male-female ratio is now almost 50/50 in the laboratory field. And women are also making a comeback in the number of applications at an MBO level.

Furthermore, on a University Bachelor and Master level, the number of enrolments are vastly increasing: with a 34 percent increase in application in 2021 compared to 2014 at a Bachelor level, and an increase of 63 percent increase in applications compared to 2014 at a Masters level.

We don’t need less people: we need skilled people

Yet, the number of jobs in this sector keeps increasing at all levels. The current energy- and material transitions are deeply rooted in the chemical sector. Consequently, the energy and materials transition increasingly requires well-trained and specialized people. It’s a persistent misunderstanding that due to digitalization, robotization and innovation we need fewer people in the process and chemical industry. In fact, the opposite is true: we don’t need less people. We need people with different skills.

Talent programs help young professionals in the chemical field to further develop such new skills, while at the same time providing students with a network that helps them to accelerates their career. At ISPT we believe we can only reach a circular and carbon neutral industry if we work together. Therefor our Human Capital program works on the development of students and professionals.

We strongly believe that human capital is an important factor in the energy transition because it represents the skills, knowledge, and expertise of the individuals who are involved in the process. Without a strong base of human capital, it would be nearly impossible to effectively carry out the energy transition.

Our Human Capital program works on the development of students and professionals.

Download your free copy of the ISPT Trendreport

You can find more information in the full report from TKI Chemie by Onno de Vreede.

Our ISPT Trend Report 2023 also underlines this study: the job market for process technology is becoming a real concern. This Trend Report is called The Future of Sustainable Process Industry and can be downloaded for free.