How Student-Focused Initiatives Can Inspire the Next Generation of Members
Want to develop a strong pipeline for the next generation of members and industry leaders? Giving a little inspiration to young students can go a long way. Learn how this strategy worked for the American Industrial Hygiene Association.
Laurie Mutdosch, CAE, director of membership and volunteer relations at the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), has found that the first thing people think of when they hear “industrial hygiene” is either dentistry or cleaning warehouses.
“It’s so much more than that,” she said. “It’s about mitigating the risk to exposure and keeping the workforce around the world safe.”
Like many associations, AIHA has an important mission but also faces hurdles in getting the public to understand the industry. Because of that, AIHA knew it needed get the word out to develop a pipeline of future leaders.
With that goal, the association launched the “I Am IH” challenge, asking members to speak to local schools and communities to spread awareness about the industry. As part of it, AIHA developed learning materials, including age-appropriate comic books, hero avatars, and games designed to inspire the next generation.
“We need to get more students involved in STEM, more young women, more minorities,” Mutdosch said. “We want to get young students excited about the industry.”
She shared how tailoring learning resources to your audience and supporting members through the process can make for a successful initiative that reaches students and benefits the industry and association.
Tailor Your Learning
To plan a successful challenge, associations should first decide the age levels they want to reach and create activities, lessons, and presentations geared toward those audiences.
“We’re in a visual world, and kids have more access to the internet and social media, so you need to figure out what your audience is interested in,” Mutdosch said. “For example, we’ve had members’ kids create TikTok videos about the industry. Kids are more likely to follow someone their own age on a platform they know.”
In addition, if members are speaking to kids about the industry, encourage them to bring tools and other equipment with them. For instance, AIHA members have brought personal protection equipment and showed students how it works and why it’s important.
“You want to incorporate information with something interactive,” Mutdosch said. “That makes a lasting impact. Our profession isn’t something students are going to learn from a school counselor or science teacher, so that’s where our members come in.”
While members supply knowledge and local connections, organizations can provide materials, strategies, and other relevant information.
“When we first rolled this out, we had thumb drives with the resource materials and cards with a QR code that took members to our website, so it was easy to participate,” Mutdosch said.
Making participation simple is key. AIHA provides materials slated to students in different age groups for presentations. If members let AIHA know how many students are expected to attend their presentation, AIHA will send materials to the classroom ahead of time.
Mutdosch recommends guiding members through presentation logistics. Once members identify a school or youth group, AIHA does some research and lets members know who they need to contact, where they should park, whether the teacher will be in the classroom, and appropriate materials to bring with them.
“Make sure that members are engaged through this process,” she said. “Our members can earn points and prizes like gift cards, so it encourages them and rewards them to get awareness out there.”
Inspire Toward a Career
Associations can also create activities and content that help students see themselves in the industry. AIHA launched a series of IH heroes (see image below) that correspond to people in different career stages. These heroes represent people from diverse backgrounds who found different ways into the industry.
AIHA also launched comic books featuring IH professionals who work through problems using their skillsets. The association created digital cards, designed like baseball cards, with the hero’s background, how they came to the field, and their interests and hobbies.
For older students in high school and college, AIHA produces a salary survey where students can see starting salaries in their area for roles that they’re interested in.
“We want to bring more awareness to the profession and show students how the industry benefits the community and benefits them,” Mutdosch said.