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December 12, 2022

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Culture and Behaviours

Future proofing – How to influence the next generation

Darren Ford, Head of Learning and Development and Organisational Development at Arco, examines how the health and safety sector can influence and encourage the next generation of practitioners.

Darren Ford, Head of Learning and Development and Organisational Development at Arco

During the pandemic, the health and safety sector was thrust into the spotlight as organisations sought to adapt to a new way of working. Experts were required to facilitate remote working, provide mental health support and cover many other atypical needs. As a result of this increased demand, the sector has been highlighted as an essential part of modern business. The role has subsequently evolved, growing in scope beyond the basic safeguarding of employees and the public. Health and safety has never been more at the forefront of business decisions, with senior management and company boards often including a sector expert. Now is the perfect time to join this valued and diverse profession.

However, the health and safety industry is facing a growing issue. Even as the sector receives greater recognition, the pool of experienced industry experts’ businesses can draw from is steadily decreasing. Directors, specialists, and all varieties of safety professionals are gradually ageing out of the workforce. It is vital that a new generation of health and safety staff is nurtured to avoid a growing skills gap in the workforce. Institutional knowledge, years of practical experience and niche expertise all need to be shared with the next generation of health and safety experts while there is still time.

What Can Be Done?

The greater emphasis placed on health and safety presents an ideal opportunity for the next generation of experts to shine at all levels of seniority. Organisations must support and nurture young people interested in the sector. Consider educational outreach, apprenticeship schemes and internal training as a long-term investment in the knowledge of the experts of tomorrow.

Family Business United recently released a report reflecting on its Top 10 Family Business Apprentice Employers. Arco was included in recognition of our Future Experts programme. Over the past five years, we have seen 34 apprenticeships completed and 29 that are ongoing, with plans in place for a further 30. This is one example of the type of outreach and education that can help encourage the next generation of safety experts. Another fantastic example of this type of investment and ‘futureproofing’ is the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health’s (IOSH) five-year strategy: Work 2022. The initiative sets out a clear vision of encouraging long-lasting progress in safety, health and wellbeing at work, worldwide. As part of the ongoing activity, IOSH members are proactively networking with the next generation of experts. This includes career fairs and presentations at schools, universities and more.

Ultimately, the greater the amount of exposure of the sector to the future workforce, the greater the benefits for organisations for years to come. Better education and understanding of health and safety is valuable for all entering the world of work, not just future health and safety professionals, and is vital to foster understanding across organisations, in addition to bolstering the next generation of experts.

The Impact

When considering the next generation of health and safety experts, it is vital to understand that they are a new and unique generation, not just warm bodies to fill existing industry roles. Just as the sector has expanded and changed in scope, so too has the skill set, understanding and approach to work of the next generation. Shifting attitudes and approaches will shape health and safety for the foreseeable future.

For example, Generation Z is the first generation of native technology users. Their approach to technology in the workplace will be considerably more flexible and intuitive than many of their older colleagues. During the pandemic, and following the rise of remote or hybrid working, digital tools have come to the fore in the workplace. This trend will become a strength for the next generation, leading to greater digital integration and understanding of the role of technology in health and safety.

Mental health and the surrounding social attitudes are also vastly different. This is another generational benefit for the expanding scope of health and safety. The Health and Safety Executive reported that in 2020/21, 0.8 million workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety (both new and long standing). This is a growing issue that is increasingly handled by health and safety professionals and is another example of a powerful advantage future generations can bring to the sector.

When looking at the future of the health and safety industry, we should see immense opportunity. Provided the current ageing expertise is addressed, there is grand potential for tomorrow’s experts to grow and reach new heights alongside the rapidly developing health and safety sector. Proactive outreach, education, and support for newcomers to the sector will ensure that health and safety remain a priority and practical resource for years to come.

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Nigel Evelyn-dupree
Nigel Evelyn-dupree
1 year ago

Future Proofing will need addressing unresolved occupational health issues from the past regardless of current state of maturity in compliance with Accessibility Regulations!?