Health and safety qualifications
In light of the growing number of students choosing health and safety as a course of study and subsequent profession, Frances Davies discusses common misconceptions surrounding careers in the HS&E field, and looks at the experiences of some recent graduates who are really shaking up the sector.
More and more people of all ages and backgrounds are studying health and safety at both degree and MSc level. Consequently, the proportion of graduates and post-graduates among health and safety professionals is increasing, with some studies predicting that, in a few years’ time, almost all those working in the industry will be graduates with post-graduate health and safety qualifications.
Alongside this, there is a burgeoning jobs market in the health and safety sector, which continues to increase its head-count in line with ever more complex and frequent UK and EU legislation that must be complied with. Now is therefore an excellent time to seek advice about a future career in health and safety, as vacant jobs currently outweigh the number of good-quality candidates.
So why should a graduate or postgraduate consider a career in HS&E, and what are recruiters looking for? The sector needs bright, interesting people, with fresh blood, who bring with them up-to-date knowledge and original ideas.
Owing to its fast-changing nature, it needs people who are dynamic, adaptable and creative, as well as sensible and alert; people who are capable of assessing risk and able to assert themselves and motivate others to ensure that policies and procedures are followed through and adhered to, and keep employers on their toes.
Because health and safety requirements apply to all types of workplace, there is a huge variety of work to choose from. The graduates featured in the case studies in this article come from a variety of different backgrounds, and chose a health and safety career for diverse reasons, but all demonstrate that there is much enjoyment and fulfilment to be found within it.
Advice to employers
If organisations apply too many restrictions on the type of person that they are willing to employ, they could lose out. Specifying too rigidly the number of years’ experience or qualifications they want can mean that good graduates are not given a chance to prove themselves and develop from within.
Graduates leaving university possess a state-of-the-art grasp of current law, policies and procedures. Although some may need time to gain confidence in the workplace and experience of managing people, the good employer should consider the need to balance their solid, reliable, long-standing employees with fresh new blood — people who have new ideas and an ability to view the workplace with an unsullied eye. A graduate will come without any previous baggage of poor workplace experience and practices, and the employer will be in a better position to mould new recruits into their organisation’s culture.