Shortage Projected in the Occupational Safety and Health Workforce The national need for occupational safety and health professionals in the next five years will fall short of supply by about 50% nationwide. This projected need builds on a deficit already in place—nearly half of the employers who tried to hire in the last 2 years had difficulty finding qualified applicants. The fields encompassed by the recent survey include occupational health nursing, safety, occupational hygiene, occupational medicine, ergonomics and health physics—all fields of study available at the University of Cincinnati (UC). At a time when employment organization and industry focus on emerging technologies poses new stresses for workers, an adequate supply of educated professionals is essential to maintaining a safe and healthful workforce to meet the challenges to employers. Employers report the need for more than 25,000 occupational safety and health specialists nationwide in the next five years, according to work completed in October by Westat, an independent survey research group. Westat projects that training providers will graduate only 13,000 or 52 percent of the national need during the same time period. Midwest educational institutions will graduate 3,100 to a labor market demand of the about the same size. In the Northeast, South and West however, substantial gaps exist; and of course, some Midwest graduates will move away from the region. Employers noted that more than 25% of professionals also have responsibilities that include one of the other disciplines. The ERC training model is ideal for addressing this need, as all disciplines work on projects as a team. ERC graduates are ideally qualified to do some work in other disciplines, while recognizing when a colleague’s specialized skills are needed. When asked what was most needed to better prepare future employees, employers noted improved communication skills. The UC ERC program of education includes frequent feedback from faculty on communication work—thus the graduates from UC have a solid basis for success. Barriers to higher enrollment include a lack of knowledge about the field and lack of funding for the education. We are addressing lack of knowledge of the field through this recruitment effort. Lack of funding is an on-going concern due to cuts to University budgets, but is heightened as the Federal government considers terminating all funding through NIOSH for this purpose. The disciplines offered at UC and through the 16 other ERCs are critical to meeting the employers’ needs in building business and maintaining a safe and productive workforce. ERCs provide an inter-disciplinary education; graduates communicate clearly and resolve both new and established workplace challenges. See: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/oshworkforce/pdfs/NASHW_Final_Report.pdf.
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