Closing the Gap between Curricula and Practice
When educating the next generation of industrial hygiene professionals, we must remain committed to our ideals and the basic tenets of worker health and safety. Our commitment starts with ensuring that there is a next generation of IH professionals entering the field.

According to a 2011 NIOSH study, one of the largest obstacles facing our profession is that few potential IH students know what industrial hygiene is. Have we been lax in promoting our profession? Are there fewer opportunities for undergraduate engineers and discovery-driven scientists to seek IH graduate education since there are fewer challenging technical problems in U.S. workplaces? Have our educational programs painted a picture that industrial hygiene is now a nanny profession? TRANSITION TO THE WORK FORCE These questions were among the issues discussed at the 42nd Annual Meeting of AIHA’s Yuma Pacific Southwest Local Section last year. YPSW was formed in 1975 by the standard bearers of the modern industrial hygiene profession (George Clayton, Frank Patty, Lester and Lewis Cralley, Ralph Allan, James Sterner, and Herbert Walworth). The YPSW membership comprises accomplished IH leaders from industry, government, and academia.  The primary message of the 2017 YPSW meeting was the responsibility of senior IH professionals to pass on the wisdom of experience. A key tenet of that wisdom is the need to close the gap between educational curricula and professional practice. Our curricula must incorporate what we may consider nontraditional industrial hygiene courses that focus on leadership, communication, and advanced scientific/engineering approaches. Adding these disciplines would steer our educational pathways away from the popular “compliance-only” approach. As we all know, it is eliminating hazards, to the extent practicable, that forms the basis of our profession. Internships and field courses can contribute practical experience valuable to employers. All IH educational programs must meet requirements necessary for successful transition of students into the work force. Employers who hire from programs accredited by ABET’s Applied and Natural Science Accreditation Commission benefit from the greater professional performance and mobility of their employees. These employers also have opportunities to offer guidance to ABET-accredited programs about the skills their students need in the workplace. In turn, the IH profession must support expansion of accreditation of academic programs on a global basis, encourage a move toward implementation of “virtual” evaluations of academic programs, and welcome the inclusion of natural sciences into the applied sciences accreditation process.  We must embrace the expanded use of “micro-credentialing,” where applicants prove their mastery of specific knowledge or skills, while continuing our support and promotion of the CIH certification. We must always ensure that CIHs provide better outcomes and meet employers’ needs. To reach and recruit younger industrial hygienists, we must adapt our communications using every means available. Of course, we will not abandon the traditional face-to-face meeting, but we need to make better use of town halls, email, social media, and video. RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE FUTURE Our profession is based on the scientific principles and investigative tenacity practiced by its pioneers. Their goals—recognition, evaluation, and control—remain as relevant today as they were 100 years ago. We must adapt our processes to accommodate the move to the “gig work force,” where temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements. The industrial hygiene profession must incorporate the best qualities of our traditional IH approach into the new realities of the changing work force. Responsibility for the future of the profession lies with its current leaders. Successful recruitment of the next generation of industrial hygiene practitioners depends upon innovative and engaging educational curricula that validate the importance of industrial hygiene. We must make a concerted effort to communicate the wisdom of the past generations in the language of the current generation.
BOB LIECKFIELD, JR., CIH, FAIHA, is a senior consultant, HSE Division at Bureau Veritas. He can be reached via email.
RESOURCES The ideas expressed in this article are drawn from presentations given at the YPSW Local Section’s 42nd Annual Meeting by Del Malzahn, CIH, FAIHA; Robert D. Soule, CIH, CSP, FAIHA; Lynn O’Donnell, CIH, FAIHA; John Howard, MD; and Michael Rosenow, CIH. The presentation slides are available on the YPSW website. A recap of the entire conference is also available.