Health and safety is a great career option for young people but what can I do to attract young people just starting out in their career to consider a role in health and safety?


Barry Wilkes, Director of Strategy writes exclusively for NEBOSH in their regular Q&A column with comment from Lee Broadbent.

A 2016 ‘State of the Industry’ survey conducted by Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) with health and safety professionals found that over 60% of respondents were aged over 45 while just 11% were aged 18 to 34. Furthermore, 71% stated that health and safety was not their first career choice. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that employers are giving more thought to how they can attract talented, young people to the profession.

Almost every industry from manufacturing and mining through to retail and the public sector employ health and safety personnel. The profession can offer really interesting, rewarding and varied roles supported by good career development paths, attractive salaries and the ability to work almost anywhere in the world. What’s more a degree isn’t an entry requirement, which can be a major attraction in this era of rising student debt.

Here, Barry Wilkes, Director of Strategy at NEBOSH, has compiled some useful advice to help you support and encourage young people to join your team.

  • Consider offering potential young recruits work experience or an internship with your team. This will give them an opportunity to get a good insight into what a full-time health and safety role will involve and enable them to 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, you could encourage them to volunteer for the role of health and safety representative or join the company’s health and safety committee to build up their experience and develop a support network of more experienced colleagues.
  • With the average student graduating from university with debts of over £50,000, the offer of ‘learning while earning’ will be very 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 is also the perfect springboard for continuing their development with one of the degree-level NEBOSH Diplomas.
  • Apprenticeships are becoming increasingly common and are another great way of attracting young people as they enable learning on the job. As you’ll see from the example we’ve included below, they provide an attractive alternative to further education for young people who are keen to start their working life straight after school.
  • As well as encouraging health and safety-specific learning, make sure you offer any new young recruits an opportunity to develop their wider business skills too. It is important that they learn core skills like decision-making, influencing, negotiating and networking which are all vital for a successful health and safety professional.

One of NEBOSH’s younger students, Lee Broadbent, is a great example of a young person who is building a successful career in health and safety. We hope his story will inspire more employers to consider taking on health and safety apprentices.

Lee joined Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (MBC) at the age of 18, after gaining four A levels. His grades were two A stars, one A and one B, but surprisingly he chose not to go to university and to look for an apprenticeship instead.

For several months Lee shadowed senior members of the Council’s team, until he was gradually given more and more responsibilities. At this point it was decided he should gain a suitable qualification; the degree-equivalent NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety.

“The Diploma is a degree-level qualification and is hugely important in terms of practical application,” said Lee. “It’s not just textbook. It works perfectly when you are developing your experience. You pick up so much from the Diploma as an apprentice. It’s the backbone to a health and safety career really.”

Lee completed his Diploma in July 2016 and went on to apply for Grad IOSH status (membership of The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health). He has progressed to the position of full-time Health and Safety Advisor and is destined for bigger things. Not bad for someone aged just 22! He is already effectively leading a stress management programme at Calderdale MBC and is sharing his experiences with other young people wanting to enter the profession.

“It’s difficult as a young person applying for jobs, because employers want experience,” Lee says. “But how can you get experience if nobody will offer you a job? My apprenticeship has given me a lot of practical experience and through my NEBOSH Diploma I already have a strong CV. I hope more employers open their eyes to the benefits of taking on a health and safety apprentice and give more young people a chance. If they support them like I have been supported, they might be pleasantly surprised!”

To find out more about occupational health and safety qualifications, contact NEBOSH at or call +44 (0)116 263 4700.


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