CHRISTINE A.D. LORENZO, CIH,
is president of AIHA and safety and occupational
health manager for federal and state operations at OSHA.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (720) 264-6572
In October 2011, NIOSH released the results of a study that confirmed what we in the OEHS professions had known for some time: that the demand for our services would soon far outstrip the number of trained professionals qualified to provide them. One finding indicated that while employers planned to hire approximately 25,000 occupational health and safety professionals by 2016, our degree programs would produce fewer than 12,000 qualified graduates for these positions. AIHA, for our part, has long recognized the importance of bringing young people into the profession and helping those who are just starting out in their industrial hygiene careers. For more than 30 years, the American Industrial Hygiene Foundation has funded scholarships for students pursuing industrial hygiene or other occupational health-related degrees. And, since 2005, our Future Leaders Institute (FLI) has nurtured the leadership skills of OEHS professionals with fewer than 15 years of experience. This month, FLI will be held in conjunction with the AIHA Fall Conference in Washington, D.C., Oct. 19–21.
But AIHA members and volunteers are involved in many other activities intended to reach young people at an earlier age. And an exciting new project coordinated by several AIHA volunteer groups holds great promise for educating students at all levels about OEHS careers.
SCHOLARS AND MENTORS Our volunteers play a key role in attracting young people to the profession. The Students and Early Career Professionals (SECP) Committee, for example, informs students about opportunities available in the OEHS industry and promotes interaction between students and working professionals. Student Local Sections are another excellent way that AIHA encourages students to get involved in the profession.
One of our most encouraging successes in engaging young members has been the AIHA Mentoring Program, which pairs students and early-to-mid-career professionals with mentors who have more extensive experience in industrial hygiene. The program began in 2008 with nine mentor-mentee pairs and a single volunteer manager. Today, the program encompasses nearly 200 participants from countries around the world and has been so successful that the Board of Directors elevated it to committee status.
Our newest effort to bring young people into the profession is a collaborative outreach initiative involving the Fellows Special Interest Group, the SECP Committee, and the Local Sections Council. The initiative calls for an AIHA Fellow or another individual to serve as an Outreach Champion in his or her local section and to participate in outreach activities to local students at all levels, from kindergarten through college. The SECP Committee will provide materials for presentations and encourage members to participate in outreach activities through their local sections. These materials will include classroom demonstrations, lectures, and laboratory exercises. MEANINGFUL WORK Our profession has many characteristics that appeal to younger generations. Studies show that young people today look for careers that satisfy their altruistic instincts: they want meaningful work that makes a difference. They also value jobs that allow them to engage in a variety of tasks while achieving work-life balance. Industrial hygiene embodies all of these ideals.
At AIHce 2014 in San Antonio, Mike Harris, who delivered the prestigious Cummings Lecture, challenged each of us to share the extraordinary personal satisfaction we experience through our jobs with the young people in our community. Harris was 42 years old before he ever heard the term “industrial hygiene.” The new AIHA outreach initiative is intended in part to ensure that everyone with potential for an IH career will be well informed about the profession at an early age, but it needs your help to succeed. Imagine the impact if each one of us made a goal this year to do one tangible activity that heightened students’ awareness of the extraordinary personal satisfaction of our profession?
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Bringing IH to a New Generation
BY CHRISTINE A.D. LORENZO, AIHA PRESIDENT