Inspiring the next generation of health and safety professionals
Tuesday, 17 October 2023
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question a lot of you probably heard as a child/teenager. Did you ever imagine yourself to be working in the health and safety field?
Health and safety is often considered to be a secondary career path, something you fall into after maybe working in construction, the army, the police, etc. Although there is not a huge amount of research available online, one piece of research shows that the average age of an occupational health and safety specialist is 45 years old; 65% of those professionals are 40 years or older, 26% are between the ages of 30-40 years old and just 9% are between 20-30 years old (1). A 2021 survey of over 2,300 health and safety professional members showed that just 0.8% of respondents were aged 18-24 years old (2).
Here at NEBOSH, we would love to see more people select health and safety as their first career choice. As we start to think about what more we can do to help, we spoke to four of our learners who shared their experiences of how they were inspired to choose and develop a career in health and safety.
Mentoring can be a great way for those of us already working in the industry, to support and encourage the next generation. It can also help develop our own skills – listening, problem-solving, patience and the ability to give constructive criticism are all essential skills for a mentor (3). Mentoring could be with colleagues at your existing employer, people you already know or through more formal mentorship schemes, such as the one run by IIRSM.
Daniel Farrington, 27, is a HSEQ Manager at Lanes Group PLC. He has completed two NEBOSH qualifications and is working towards his NEBOSH Level 6 National Diploma for Occupational Health and Safety Management Professionals.
Daniel told us that his health and safety career started with mentorship. He said: “Having a mentor can be a powerful asset for personal and professional development. Whether just starting your career or seeking to advance to higher levels of expertise, a mentor can provide guidance, knowledge, encouragement and a broader perspective that can help you achieve your goals and navigate the complexities of your chosen path.”
Consider offering work experience
When you say ‘work experience’ many of us think of people still in education – and this is absolutely a great way to promote professions and organisations as career options – but it can also be a great opportunity to provide in-house too; work experience programmes for your existing employees could help them see what opportunities are available, find their passions and develop with your organisation.
This was what happened to Jayne Morgan, 28, Health and Safety Director at James Hall & Co Ltd and holder of a NEBOSH National General Certificate and Diploma. Early in her career, Jayne was given an opportunity to work in different areas of the business to get an understanding of the different career pathways. She said: “I was able to appreciate how important every person was in helping the company to succeed as a business. I also loved hearing about how passionate people were about the job they do. As part of the programme, I spent time with the health and safety team who worked closely with management and staff to develop safety systems and the safety culture of each area. The overall experience influenced me to pursue a career in health and safety as I knew I wanted to do something that was very person-focused and something that would enable me to make a difference in maintaining a happy and healthy workforce”.
Faye Harrison, 22, is a great example of when things come together. It was while doing work experience during her GCSEs that she became interested in health and safety. When she left college, she applied and secured an apprenticeship with her local council. She had the opportunity to learn on the job, shadowing senior colleagues, undertaking in-house training and gaining formal qualifications, including NEBOSH. She stated that she was “lucky to have brilliant bosses and co-workers to help mentor me on the job…By having a mentor, it helped me achieve my career goals. I also found LinkedIn a good platform to connect with health and safety professionals.”
Faye now works as Health and Safety Officer at The Celtic Collection. Her advice to young people: “I think it’s okay not to know exactly what you want to do early in your career. As soon as you start working you can tailor a career path to suit your interests. All work experience is valuable and can be applied to different industries”.
A passion for the profession
Even if you don’t have the time or resources right now to offer activities such as mentoring or work experience, your day-to-day conversations and interactions might still be enough to pique someone’s interest in the profession.
Doing something you love is really rewarding so don’t be shy about sharing! With social media, events, networking and online groups all around, there’s plenty of chance for us to promote how great a career in health and safety is. Talking about the benefits of the job and why you do what you do will no doubt share the positivity with others, especially those who may be struggling to decide on a career path. And if you know someone trying to break into the profession, NEBOSH has a free careers guide available to download from its website.
Social media is also a great way of sharing ideas and best practice with fellow professionals, helping people already in the industry to develop. Jayne added: “I have found LinkedIn a really useful platform for finding articles and ideas about health and safety. These articles have helped me consolidate my own thoughts about strategy and direction and allowed me to understand where the industry is developing”.
Roukaya Zetchi, 26, is the youngest woman from an Arabic country to achieve a NEBOSH International Diploma. She works as a Site EHS Specialist at FieldCore and holds two NEBOSH Certificates too.
Roukaya is passionate about the profession but is realistic that success cannot be achieved without hard work and commitment. She advises: “To the vibrant and ambitious young minds eager to forge their path in the realm of health and safety, I offer these words of motivation. Envelop your studies with unbridled passion, for it is the key that unlocks the door to profound understanding. Embrace challenges not as roadblocks, but as opportunities to showcase your resilience and determination. Craft a study plan that aligns with your aspirations, and remember that every moment invested in learning is a step toward greatness. Language proficiency is your arsenal; wield it with eloquence and precision. Time is your ally—manage it wisely, and success will follow. Believe fiercely in your capabilities, for you possess the boundless potential to shape the future. Let your journey be a testament to the extraordinary heights you can reach with unwavering dedication. You are the architects of your destiny, and I am eager to inspire you to build a future filled with purpose and achievement.”