The young ones

05 March 2018

NEBOSH (the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health) provides advice on how to develop and train young people working in the health and safety sector

Almost all industry sectors from manufacturing and mining through to retail and the public sector employ health and safety personnel. The profession offers interesting, rewarding and varied roles supported by good career development paths, attractive salaries and the ability to work almost anywhere in the world.  

Add to that the fact that a university degree isn’t a requirement and, in this era of rising student debt, it’s no surprise that increasing numbers of young people are choosing to pursue a career in health and safety. In fact, in the last five years, the number of people aged 25 and under studying for health and safety qualifications with NEBOSH has more than doubled.

In a profession that’s typically been dominated by people in their second career – a 2016 ‘State of the Industry’ survey found over 60% of respondents were aged over 45 – it’s important that we maintain this upward trend and attract talented, young people to the profession. 

To help organisations support and encourage young people to join their team, NEBOSH has the following advice:

  • Offer potential young recruits work experience. This will give them an insight into what a full-time health and safety role will involve and get to know your other team members before you, and they, make a longer-term commitment.
  • If there are already young people working elsewhere in your organisation, encourage them to volunteer for the role of health and safety representative or join the company’s health and safety committee. It will help to build up their experience and develop a support network of more experienced colleagues.
  • The average student graduates from university with debts of over £50,000 so the opportunity to ‘learn while you earn’ will be attractive to young people looking for an alternative to full time further education. Supporting someone through a professional qualification like the NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety will give them a great grounding in the profession. It’s also the perfect springboard for continuing their development with one of the degree-level NEBOSH Diplomas. 
  • Give young recruits an opportunity to develop their wider business skills too. It’s important that they learn core skills like decision-making, influencing, negotiating and networking which are all vital for a successful health and safety professional.

Case study

One of NEBOSH’s students, Lee Broadbent, is a great example of a young person who is building a successful career in health and safety. 

Lee joined Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (MBC) at the age of 18, after gaining four A levels. Despite achieving high grades, he chose not to go to university and took up the council’s in-house apprenticeship scheme in health and safety instead.

Initially, Lee shadowed senior members of the Council’s team until he was given more and more responsibilities. At this point it was decided he should gain a suitable qualification; the NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety which he completed in July 2016.  

He has since progressed to the position of full-time health and safety advisor, achieved the NEBOSH National Certificate in Fire Safety and Risk Management and is destined for bigger things. Not bad for someone aged just 22! He is already effectively leading a stress management programme for 200 managers at Calderdale MBC and is a regular speaker at industry events, encouraging other young people wanting to enter the profession. 

“As a professional qualification, the NEBOSH Diploma has been hugely important in terms of giving me practical skills to use in the workplace. It also gives you the depth of knowledge required to apply it to a wide range of situations," Lee says. “I tap into the knowledge I learnt all the time. It’s raised my credibility with colleagues and I get involved in discussions with older members of the team which keeps information fresh in all of our minds.”

He concluded: “I hope more employers open their eyes to the benefits of taking on young people. If they support them like I have been supported, they might be pleasantly surprised!”