Filling the Pipeline
Over the past few years, AIHA has updated its IH Professional Pathway program. The impetus behind this initiative was a desire to align AIHA’s many resources and leadership development opportunities with the various career stages of the profession. The resulting program encourages and supports the attainment of credentials such as certifications (most notably, the CIH), AIHA e-certificate programs, and AIHA Registry Programs. The program continues to be refined based on input from various committees, working groups, and you, the individual professional.
The IH Pro Pathway program identifies five career stages (spanning from student to emeritus professional), each with its own unique needs and interests. Further, the program references a variety of resources in three knowledge areas:
- Technical: This area involves deep education and training in core IH topics, such as exposure assessment, environmental and occupational risk assessment, and exposure control program management.
- Leadership: Professionals working within this realm participate on teams through their employer or as volunteers. In both capacities, they develop skills that prepare them to manage teams and projects, as well as participate in mentoring programs.
- Management: This area includes education and training necessary to advance within the management structure of various IH careers, including skills in communication, time management, financial management, and supervision.
For more information, refer to the complete IH Pro Pathways e-guide (PDF), which maps specific AIHA resources to each career stage, cross-referenced against the technical/leadership/management lenses.
AIHA recognizes the importance of investing in the next generation, to ensure a sustainable and vibrant organization for years to come. This year, AIHA funded a Next Generation Needs Assessment survey targeted solely at millennials who have graduated with a degree from an occupational and environmental health and safety or public health program. Next year, this research will be used in the development of a new early-career professional (ECP) “journey map and toolkit” with resources such as training videos and practical tips. (An ECP is an individual with 10 or fewer years of work experience in an OEHS profession.) We will also complete an audit of all AIHA ECP membership materials as well as our volunteer infrastructure.
ALLIED PROFESSIONALS AND PRACTITIONERS
The IH Pro Pathway is also relevant for a variety of allied professionals and practitioners—such as those working in the safety, environmental, or medical industries—who may require fundamental training in IH/OH. AIHA is taking a lead role in providing education and training for those who must increase their level of understanding, perhaps due to an expansion of their job responsibilities. AIHA plans to conduct new research in 2021 to understand and better address the needs of EHS/safety technicians—that is, those who have not received formal IH/OH education in school. Some technicians may have an associate’s degree while others may enter the profession as high school graduates.
In July 2019, the AIHA Board engaged in what is referred to as a “generative discussion” on the issue of career pathways, including those who may transition mid-career into OEHS from another profession. These individuals may be of any age, bring valuable skills with them that are likely complementary to OEHS, and are considered ECPs. Some key recommendations included:
- establishing a new ECP Award (parameters to be defined)
- expanding access to OEHS career information and mentoring
- offering more virtual education on both technical and soft skills (such as communications, emotional intelligence, managing staff)
- curating and distributing stories from ECPs (including those who transitioned from another profession)
- increasing awareness and opportunities for ECPs to join one or more of AIHA’s volunteer groups (ideally breaking down barriers to entry to afford ECPs opportunities to be leaders in the profession earlier on)
AIHA staff is evaluating these and other ideas, with an emphasis on recruiting and engaging new and current student members, doing a better job of retaining them upon graduation, and attracting new ECPs who may not be familiar with AIHA.
Finally, we are launching a new outreach campaign to attract students and help us fill our pipeline. Our newly launched micro-site OEHS Science Careers will contain free resources for students of all ages, teachers, and counselors interested in learning more about the profession. The site features videos of young professionals discussing their jobs as well as a list of universities that offer a degree in OEHS. The IH Pro Pathway program is referenced. And for younger students, AIHA’s IH Heroes initiative, a comic book-style program that includes a web-based “smart” game, introduces the profession to students in a fun, educational manner.
As you can see, there is a lot to be done in engaging our future leaders. If you have suggestions for improvement, please email me directly.