Students attending the recent American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Future Safety Leaders Conference in Louisville, Ky., expressed optimism regarding the future of the EHS profession, according to an ASSE press release. Despite the challenging economy, many see opportunities in construction, manufacturing, and the ‘green’ movement and also note increased popularity in their schools’ EHS programs.

“I still see an increase in opportunities for safety professionals and the need for more SH&E professionals in the renewable energy and bio-fuel industries in the next 10 years,” said Jonathon Ludrick, a senior studying occupational safety and health at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and member of the ASSE Southeastern Oklahoma State University Student Chapter. “I also think ergonomics is one area that is becoming more popular to study, as well as workers’ compensation issues and legal liability. Companies can save money by taking precautions before incidents happen, but most importantly lives can be saved.”

“I think there are increasing opportunities in every area of safety,” said Kendra Potsubay, a safety and environmental management senior at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania and ASSE Slippery Rock University Student Chapter member. “Overall, I think the profession is growing and the current economy will probably not cause a big change in the SH&E profession because workplace safety is a key component in many companies. Some companies may see a decline in safety personnel but not too much; after all, there are still workplace safety standards that are in place and need to be followed.”

ASSE Slippery Rock University Student Chapter Vice President Natasha Banks also sees an increase in students pursuing the occupational SH&E profession. A current senior studying health, safety and environmental management, Banks noted, “I see our major and department growing at Slippery Rock University. We have five professors in the program and I can definitely see the need for more. I remember when the program had around 30 students, now it is more like 85 – 100. The program is running out of space.

“At my university one of the top career choices and areas of study is in construction,” added Banks. “One trend I am seeing is more women choosing the construction safety field. I do not know the exact numbers but I am definitely seeing more women entering the field at my university. I’ve even seen this change since I was a sophomore.”