Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Connecting the Dots: Students Power Our Future

2013 ASSE President
Kathy A. Seabrook, CSP, CMIOSH, EurOSHM
It's common to hear "students are our future" when speaking about the next generation. Although true, it also reflects an inevitability. That's why I view this topic a bit differently. I believe students power our future; they make it possible. As leaders of ASSE and in the global SH&E community, it is our responsibility to engage with them, pave their way and help them overcome obstacles. ASSE is doing just that.

Last year, our student member segment grew 23%, making it one of our fastest-growing segments. And it's happening on a global scale, with 13% of our student members residing internationally. We also added five new student sections in India in 2013. Our goal is to provide value not only to our more than 2,800 student members, but also to safety students who are not yet members, and those students who are not yet aware of our profession but have the skill set and passion needed to be great safety professionals. These opportunities to extend the Society's reach and grow our profession are energizing and exciting. Student Strategy Task Force ASSE has long focused on supporting and encouraging accredited degree programs and the academic community.

Thanks to the work of a task force of practicing SH&E professionals, employers, educators, young professionals and students, we are now taking a similar cohesive approach to the SH&E student life cycle. The group recommended a three-tiered strategic approach designed to increase the number of students entering the safety profession and engaging with ASSE. It focuses on the pipeline of students entering the profession, the overall student experience and the successful transition from student to practicing professional. This targeted focus will be coupled with the guiding policy of establishing a connection and proof of value between ASSE and SH&E students. This strategy is being implemented through a collaborative effort that involves the Society's four councils and various programs.

Student Sections
Our 69 student sections around the world are a great example of how an organization like ASSE can develop future leaders. Supported by dedicated faculty and local chapters and led by the students themselves, these sections are achieving amazing things. For example, ASSE's 2013 Outstanding Student Section at Central Washington University conducted a research project on using smartphone apps in safety and health. The section was invited to present its findings at the 2013 Oregon Governor's Safety and Health Conference. Applications for the 2014 Outstanding Student Section will be available this month at If you have a local student section, please encourage its leaders to apply.

Annual Future Safety Leaders Conference
Each year, a select group of outstanding student members participate in our Future Safety Leaders Conference. It is a unique event during which they can network, receive career training, gather job information and learn from practicing SH&E professionals. This year, 130 applicants were accepted, representing 36 colleges and universities from around the U.S. They participated in mock interviews and resume critiques, as well as sessions on research in safety and managing a multigenerational workforce. 

Connecting the Dots
In a recent survey, we asked ASSE student members, "As you think ahead to beginning your SH&E career, what are your top concerns?" The most frequent answer was concerns about being adequately prepared and having the right skills to perform and be successful. ASSE is a key resource for these students. Each of us can help prepare these future leaders by sharing our stories, knowledge, expertise and networks. I urge each of you to participate. Help our students power the future of our profession: Speak at a student section meeting, mentor, open your facilities for a student tour, sponsor the Future Safety Leaders Conference, share your next "big idea" about students with ASSE. The opportunities to engage with our students are limitless. Help us connect the dots and power the future of ASSE and our profession.

 "Three things give the student the possibility of surpassing his teacher: Ask a lot of questions, remember the answers, teach." Jan Amos Com┼Żnius 1592-1670