ASSE Reports 5 Percent Increase in Student Participation

Student participation in the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is up, and that has the organization casting an optimistic eye to the profession's future.

ASSE, which this past August launched a faculty advisor recruitment campaign at colleges and universities, is reporting that enrollment in ASSE student sections jumped 5 percent from August to December. In August, ASSE had 943 students enrolled in student sections, and that number increased to 1,168 students in December.

ASSE President Gene Barfield, CSP, said the numbers are important not only because they show the organization's student enrollment drive is bearing fruit, but also because they point to heightened student interest in the occupational safety, health and environmental field.

"Students really are the lifeblood of the profession," Barfield said. "We've been trying to make it more attractive for students to get into the profession."

ASSE, which currently has 1,585 student members in 61 student sections at colleges and universities across the country, created student sections to help students planning for a career in the safety, health and environmental field. Through the program, students -- in conjunction with a local ASSE chapter and faculty advisor -- are able to participate in ASSE professional development programs, Practice Specialties, the ASSE members-only web site and mentoring. The annual student membership fee is $15.

The focus on increased student participation is partially driven by the graying of the occupational health and safety workforce, which will create a "void of safety professionals" in the near future, Barfield said.

"If you look at the experience level and age of most of the safety professionals right now, they're kind of like the baby boomers -- they're all getting into their mid- to late-50s and starting to retire," he said.

Barfield added that various surveys conducted by ASSE indicate that, despite a flagging economy, the safety profession doesn't appear to be losing too many of those jobs by attrition.

"A lot of folks were downsizing, but they weren't downsizing safety," Barfield said. He interprets the trend as companies becoming enlightened to the "the cost-benefit ratio of having safety professionals."

As for what an aspiring safety professional might expect to earn, a survey of ASSE membership last year found the average member salary in 2003 to be $74,000, with half of the 1,624 respondents receiving a bonus of $1,000 to $5,000. The survey, conducted by Block Research Inc., found that ASSE members with professional accreditation (those with a P.E., CSP, CIH, CHP, CRSP or IOSH-RSP) or a bachelor's degree from an accredited college with 10 or more years of safety experience earn nearly $12,000 more than a safety professional with just a high school diploma.

As a result of ASSE's faculty advisor recruitment campaign, 26 colleges and universities with occupational safety, health and environmental programs increased membership in their ASSE sections by at least 5 percent. Pennsylvania's Slippery Rock University recruited 46 new student members, Oklahoma's Northeastern State University recruited 27 students and Indiana University of Pennsylvania recruited 24 students.

Due to increased interest in the field of occupational safety and health and the commitment of the ASSE faculty advisors, new ASSE student sections have also been established at colleges and universities throughout the U.S. These include the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and the University of Utah.

In addition to student sections at schools, ASSE supports student activities and studies through:

  • ASSE Foundation scholarships and research grants;
  • ASSE chapter mentoring programs;
  • Access to internship and job listings through ASSE's job information database, NEXSTEPS;
  • Regional ASSE student leadership conferences;
  • Sending students each year to ASSE's annual professional development conference and exhibition through the ASSE Practice Specialties and the ASSE Foundation.

Formed in 1911, Des Plaines, Ill.-based ASSE has 30,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members who manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor and education.

For more information on student sections, visit ASSE's web site at www.asse.org under member services and student member information.

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