Supporting members during these distressing times

Article by Keith Batchelor CEng FIChemE and Manisha Patel CEng MIChemE

Keith Batchelor of the IChemE Benevolent Fund discusses the support it has given and calls for feedback on plans to help members during this extraordinary period

IN 1934, distinguished members of our community established a benevolent fund to support current or past members of the chemical engineering profession and their dependants who face difficulty, whether financial or otherwise. The dire impacts that Covid-19 has had on individuals within our community has seen a rise in support provided directly to those in distress, and the fund is now investing in a series of activities including a webinar on Careers Solutions to help support the wider membership though this extraordinary period.

Over the years, the Benevolent Fund has supported people from across the world who have been struggling with a wide spectrum of issues. Thankfully, the fund has continued to receive donations and bequests to allow it to provide this support.

In recent years, our ability to provide support has been significantly enhanced by the generous donations made by IChemE members via the opt-in facility within their annual membership renewal. Nearly half of members opt to make this contribution. We are also fortunate that many chemical engineers are sufficiently supportive of their profession to continue making donations and bequests.

The impact of Covid-19

This year has seen the most significant impact on our profession since the second world war. The Covid-19 pandemic has seen a step change in the number of members contacting the Benevolent Fund for support. These contacts have come from across the world and have included members at all stages of their chemical engineering life, from students through to retirees.

Whilst a wide spectrum of personal circumstances has caused distress, the recurrent theme is that a perfect storm of impacts has transformed a stable situation into a dire one. Suddenly, individuals find themselves unable to pay for accommodation or food.

Many have lost sources of income. Their employers have been unable to pay them or they cannot work due to underlying health conditions. Some countries have only had funds to support the very poorest, leaving professional families to fend for themselves. Many have young children and are the main or only salary-earner in their family.

In each case we have sought to ensure that the family’s basic needs are protected until such time as their employment situation is resolved. So far, we have paid out around £40,000 in support to 18 members from across the world including the UK, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Thailand, South Africa and Brazil.

Next steps

The Benevolent Fund Trustees and IChemE are acutely aware that the 2020 cohort of chemical engineering graduates who have recently finished their courses and are looking forward to starting their careers in chemical engineering may have already experienced the impact of Covid-19.

To support these graduates, we have already set in motion plans for our first project aimed at supporting careers development. It is called the Careers Solutions webinar series and will run weekly from 11 November to 16 December. You can find out more information about the series below, including the planned content and how to register to attend.

We are also very keen to hear about your recent experiences, whether you are a newly-qualified graduate or have recently been made redundant. So, if you would like to share your experiences, make suggestions, or find out more about the support we can provide, please contact us at or visit

Manisha Patel invites members to sign up for the six careers-focussed webinars she is hosting for members on behalf of the IChemE Benevolent Fund

WHILE we are all engineers, we are all unique - in the way we speak, think and behave, irrespective of our engineering qualifications. It is clear that one size does not fit all, and more needs to be done to support development of engineers around us, especially through these very challenging times.

Before I move on, I’d like to introduce myself; I’m Manisha. I began my career as an engineering consultant in the oil and energy sector after achieving a first-class Master’s degree and PhD in Renewables within Chemical Engineering. I became Chartered with IChemE and have since enjoyed a hybrid career as a business development professional and qualified executive coach.

Writing this here makes my career look like a walk in the park, but it has been quite the opposite, with a lot of rejection and tears. I have had a fair few knockbacks throughout my career, but with this have learnt a great deal and have connected with some of the most inspiring people of our time. I am passionate about using the skills, experiences and networks gained throughout my engineering, business and coaching career to support the development of our community.

Careers connection

I hope we will get to meet in person at future events and as a minimum, connect on LinkedIn, but I wanted to let you know that we’ve been paying attention to trends in the industry, and as a result we have put together a series of six webinars that showcase topics that have been instrumental in career development globally.

The following six webinars will go live throughout November and December, all starting at 18:30 GMT (visit to register to attend):

  • Transferable Skills, 11 Nov
  • CV and Cover Letter, 18 Nov
  • Using LinkedIn to Improve Personal Branding and Digital Fluency, 25 Nov
  • Job Search Strategy, 2 Dec
  • Interview Techniques, 9 Dec
  • Coaching, Mentoring and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), 16 Dec

While this series plans to support those among our graduate community, the content shared is also suited to help more senior professionals who are seeking a refreshed approach to their careers. As you can see, the sessions will cover a range of important topics, but are also designed to help in shifting mindsets and creating new behaviours to help you achieve your professional goals sooner.

Fear and uncertainty about ongoing events are to be expected. Let us not be defeated, but instead remain resourceful and do all that we can to show up in the best way that we can. This series is an opportunity for self-reflection and to help you identify tools that can help you stand out in what is likely to become an even more competitive environment.

So sign up, grab your notebook, your favourite drink and get comfortable. I look forward to sharing the coming weeks with you.

Article By

Keith Batchelor CEng FIChemE

Chair of Trustees, Chemical Engineers Benevolent Fund

Manisha Patel CEng MIChemE

Director, Consultant & Executive Coach at Kuzuko Group

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