By engaging students during their school years, ASSE provides a framework to help them expand their knowledge, develop competencies and get a start on becoming valuable corporate contributors.
As we approach 2011, more organizations are developing safety teams and applying behavior management to ensure a safe work environment. People must take ownership of and personal accountability for safety and health at their worksites. They must understand that they contribute to safety challenges and, therefore, must be part of the solution. Continuously improving a safety program requires the study of behavior with emphasis on understanding organizational and safety culture.
The complexities of such efforts require that SH&E professionals today and in the future have knowledge beyond a high school diploma. The day has passed when someone can simply be assigned SH&E responsibilities without a degree and related competencies. According to ASSE’s online directory of colleges and universities, 191 schools have degree programs that promote in some way increased SH&E knowledge and overall professional competencies. These programs provide an excellent opportunity for young people interested in becoming SH&E professionals.
As companies recognize the critical nature of our profession, job opportunities will continue to increase. This trend is driving an increase in ASSE’s student membership, which grew 21% this past year. ASSE currently has more than 2,500 student members in 60 student sections. Several ongoing ASSE initiatives support this growth, including the Safety Suitcase program, teen safety awareness program and the annual NAOSH Week observance, as well as the ASSE Foundation scholarship programs and the efforts of our student section academic advisors. These activities help educate young people about our dynamic profession.
The Society values the opportunity to help students launch their careers. By engaging students during their school years, ASSE provides a framework to help them expand their knowledge, develop the competencies they need to thrive in the workplace and get a start on becoming valuable corporate contributors. Chapters and members also play a role in nurturing our student members. Mentoring and internships add value to the learning experience and provide future SH&E professionals and Society leaders opportunities to expand their networks.
Over the past few months, I’ve had several opportunities to interact with our student members. I visited North Carolina State A&T University and the joint Tulsa-Oklahoma City Chapter meeting. Attendees included students from Oklahoma State University, University of Central Oklahoma and Northeastern State University. I also participated in the National Future Safety Leaders Conference in Schaumburg, IL, which drew more than 120 students representing 24 colleges and universities, along with faculty advisors, ASSE leaders and members. Student participants learned, shared and networked with peers with whom they will develop long-term friendships as they prepare to enter the SH&E profession.
During these interactions, I’ve been impressed with the student’s overall knowledge and passion, as well as with their enthusiasm for SH&E. “I look forward to creating a safety culture employees want to participate in, not one they feel forced to participate in,” Julie Barbaro, Oakland University Student Section President, recently told me. “I want to positively influence people’s opinions about safe work practices. I hope my personable demeanor and passion for the safety field help to motivate others to be safe at work.” Alexa Celine Cherry, North Carolina A&T State University Student Section President, shared a similar vision. “I want to be the team player who helps solve problems with one common goal of a safe workplace. [I want] to make safety work at the workplace, through education, communication and listening.”
I urge all of you to support our student members. Make yourself available as a mentor, provide an internship opportunity and/or donate to the ASSE Foundation to support its scholarship programs. Today’s student members are tomorrow’s professional members. They will assume leadership positions throughout the business world and within ASSE. By actively engaging and supporting these young members we will advance our profession and the Society’s mission. Students are our future.
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
—William Butler Yeats