Building Industrial Hygiene
Capacity in the United States
We are well acquainted with the challenge of replacing current industrial hygienists as they retire. In fact, other
science, technology, engineering, and
medical (STEM) professions are experiencing the same challenge and searching
for ways to counter the following trends
in U.S. education:
• K- 12 education lags behind that of
other developed nations, despite a
higher cost per student than any other
OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) country.
• Junior and senior high school students are inadequately prepared in
math and science.
• 78 percent of high school graduates
do not meet the readiness benchmark
levels for one or more entry-level college courses in math, science, reading,
• Fewer college students are receiving
undergraduate degrees in science or
These statistics are found in the recently released National Academy of
Science (NAS) report “Rising Above the
Gathering Storm, Revisited.” (A free PDF
of the report is available from www.nap.
edu.) This update of the original 2005
study assesses the principal ingredients
of innovation and competitiveness—
knowledge capital and human capital.
NAS research shows that funding of
R&D as a percentage of GDP has declined more than 60 percent in the past
40 years, and only 4. 5 percent of American college students are earning degrees
Impact on AIHA
The report’s findings are both alarming
and relevant to AIHA. Who will be IHs
in the future? How will they be recruited? Where can we find qualified
candidates? Will there be enough qualified and competent IH practitioners?
The report contends that if teachers
are better qualified to teach science and
math, then the number of students qualified to enter STEM fields will increase.
As AIHA members, we need to ask ourselves, “What have we done to improve
STEM education in our communities?”
Opportunities to make a difference are
plentiful. Personally, I have volunteered
at three graduate schools to teach environmental and occupational health, industrial hygiene, finance and other
courses. I have also visited middle and
high schools in my community to introduce students to industrial hygiene and
generate interest in math and science.
AIHA National has invested member
equity over the past ten years to recruit
and mentor early-career IHs. But our
new memberships are not keeping pace
with retirements. The report from NAS
is further confirmation that unless we
reverse current trends, there won’t be
enough qualified IHs to replace retiring
IHs, let alone grow the profession.
I challenge each local section to reach
out to middle- and high-school teachers.
Offer to help them generate enduring in-
terest in the application of scientific
principles to solve real-world problems.
Since the average K- 12 student spends
four hours each day watching TV, we
could help teachers incorporate IH into
their lesson plans to demonstrate how
science and math are used to solve
crimes, remediate disasters such as Katrina,
protect and rescue workers such as the
Chilean miners, clean up oil spills, and
Resources for Outreach
Visit the AIHA website at
aspx for information related to
conducting outreach to students.