What hiring managers are looking for in EHS grads

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (Feb. 14, 2019) – The American Industrial Hygiene Association released today a new white paper that explores the future of environmental health and safety multidisciplinary professionals, also known as EHS generalists. Developed as a result of a survey conducted by AIHA in cooperation with the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) and the National Association for Environmental Management (NAEM), the white paper focuses on the hiring requirements and expectations from stakeholders for recent EHS generalist graduates, with an emphasis on unique skill sets needed to perform this type of job as well as the entry-level opportunities available to them.

Because EHS generalists may practice across all three disciplines—environmental health and safety—relevant education and credentials are essential to, first, getting hired and, second, quickly becoming effective in the position. The report concludes that some of the most desireable communication skills employers seek related to an EHS generalist position are: influencing others, training workers, presenting information to nontechnical staff, and writing technical briefs for different audiences.
“AIHA is well positioned to assist in educating EHS generalists on the fundamentals of exposure assessment and control. Equally important, we strongly support the pursuit of ‘soft skills’ that will help enhance the competitiveness of these professionals in their careers,” said Lawrence Sloan, AIHA, CEO
“NAEM is pleased to contribute to this white paper, which accurately demonstrates that these ‘soft skills’ are just as vital to those starting out in their careers as they are to those who have risen to the top of their organizations. To be successful in an environmental, health, safety and sustainability career, aspiring leaders need to learn how to develop relationships across silos, to explain their expertise with others and to effectively make the business case for change,” said Carol Singer Neuvelt, NAEM, Executive Director
“The contexts where industrial hygiene practitioners can provide protection and value continues to broaden, creating the need for current and future practitioners to adapt existing knowledge and skills into new areas of practice and to develop new knowledge and skills. ABIH is pleased to support research that explores changing marketplace needs toward the long-term protection of health and safety in the workplace and in every environment.” — Ulric Chung, ABIH, CEO
The white paper notes that skills in communication, project management and program assessment affect the way that EHS generalists apply their education in practice and contribute to their success, and that these skills may not be well developed by academic programs.
The technical abilities identified by hiring managers as the weakest are among those that could be improved through internships and other practical, on-the-job experience. Professors recognize that their programs impart the necessary knowledge and technical skills but are not able to provide practical application experiences, resulting in a gap between academic preparation and hiring managers’ expectations. This disconnect could be resolved by more practical experience, such as internships, as well as by informational interviews between hiring managers and EHS generalist candidates.
The survey was conducted with college graduates from 2018. Participants represented a broad cross section of industries, and most participants worked for organizations with more than 500 employees.

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