Now Is a Good Time to be in EHS, Demand High for Safety Professionals

Oct. 20, 2011
A NIOSH-commissioned survey has found that employers plan to hire 25,000 EHS professionals over the next 5 years, but only 12,000 students are expected to graduate from academic programs related to occupational safety and health. Some of the positions are expected to be filled by employees who don’t have EHS training.

However, said NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard, the national demand for occupational safety and health services will significantly outstrip the number of men and women with the training, education and experience necessary to provide such services.

"Robust businesses are essential for U.S. economic recovery and growth, and in turn, safe and healthy workplaces are a vital ingredient of any successful business plan," said Howard. "The results of this NIOSH-commissioned survey suggest a troubling shortfall of professional expertise at a time when such services are most needed."

Howard said NIOSH will continue to work with partners and stakeholders to identify and pursue ways to meet the critical need for training. "The need for an adequate supply of trained professionals is particularly great as we anticipate that growing numbers of older professionals will retire over the next decade, and as new technologies continue to enter the workplace, requiring specialized skills and knowledge," Howard added.

NIOSH commissioned the survey in 2008 as part of a continuing effort with stakeholders to assess national needs for professional occupational safety and health services. An independent research firm, Westsat, designed and conducted the survey. Input to the process was provided by an advisory task force of professionals from diverse disciplines, by major stakeholders and by public comment. The survey found that:

· Degree programs in occupational safety and health have experienced declines in funding from university, college and department sources, especially among programs not provided with funding through NIOSH.
· Obstacles confronted by students who might wish to pursue an occupational safety and health degree include inadequate or limited financial aid, and lack of knowledge about these degree programs.
· While employers generally are satisfied with occupational safety and health professionals’ level of training in their specific work areas, they also would like new graduates to have training in additional relevant areas, including leadership and communication.

The report, "National Assessment of the Occupational Safety and Health Workforce," is posted on the NIOSH web page.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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