The environmental, health and safety field emerged shortly after the creation of the Environmental Prevention Agency in 1970. Executive Director of EHSCareers.com, Inc., Randy Williams has been supporting and recruiting and employing people interested in EHS employment for the past 30 years. In this article, he discusses the changes he’s seen in the field and identifies tips for standing out.
Then & Now: Working in the EHS Field
Executive Director of EHSCareers.com, Inc., Randy Williams has been supporting and recruiting and employing people interested in EHS employment since the late 1970s.
Williams said one of the biggest differences in the field since then was the consolidation of the departments.
"Back in the 70’s when the profession was just coming into its own, the environmental and safety and sometimes even the industrial hygiene-occupational health departments were all separate departments reporting to different parts of the organization,” he said.
The departments have since come under one umbrella and the field has become more important as more companies recognize their environmental and social impacts.
Williams said demand for EHS managers is very strong and that most employers are seeking broader technical skills. Departments tend to be smaller and staffed with fewer engineers, so companies are looking for well-rounded managers who have successfully led EHS programs for other organizations.
Other positions in the field that are in high demand right now, according to Williams, are in areas such as process safety, air quality, sustainability, product stewardship, ergonomics and occupational health. The demand for these jobs, he said, seems to exceed the supply.
Opportunities strictly focused on industrial hygiene, on the other hand, seem to be dwindling, he said. While said there is still a need for them, employers usually require employees to go beyond the basic job title.
The industries that are looking for EHS positions have varied over the years, said Williams, but it typically tracks with the health of that particular sector or the health of a particular company.
Before the most recent recession, Williams said, "things were going well, and demand tended to be strong across most sectors.” Since the recession, however, demand has been fairly flat on all sectors, he said. There is some demand with organizations back filling on previous unfilled vacancies though.
In the next five to ten years, Williams predicts a growing demand for people with EHS skills. "I think the old law of supply and demand is going to come into play,” he said.
Much of the talent that was developed when the field was emerging is reaching retirement age and people will be leaving the talent pool, he said.
For those looking to get into the profession, Williams suggests getting involved with professional associations to develop and maintain a strong network in the field.
Social networking sites, like LinkedIn, are another great tool. While someone may be employed in the field already, Williams said, "a lot of employers [come to job sites] just to search the resume database and search out people in the field.”
About the Expert:
Randy Williams has more thirty years of employment and search experience in the environmental, occupational health and safety field. Since 2008 Williams has been the Executive Director of EHSCareers.com, Inc., where he is responsible for the strategic development, management & direction of this internet corporation based in Athens, Georgia. Prior to EHSCareers.com, Williams was the President and Founder of Environmental, Health & Safety (EH&S) Search Associates, Inc. - a national search and recruiting firm that also focused exclusively on the environmental, occupational health and safety field.