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NZ scholarship programme to boost ageing OSH workforce

The Health and Safety Association of New Zealand (HASANZ) has launched an annual scholarship programme to increase the number of qualified OSH practitioners in the country. 

NZ scholarship programme to boost ageing OSH workforce
Minister for workplace relations and safety Iain Lees-Galloway

Starting in early 2019, the HASANZ scholarships will be awarded annually to people already working in safety and health who want to undertake higher-level qualifications, and to graduates who want to pursue careers in health and safety.

A joint survey carried out in 2017 by HASANZ and PricewaterhouseCoopers New Zealand found that demand for qualified OSH advisers outstrips supply in many areas, and that the country’s OSH workforce is ageing. The survey results indicated that more than 50% of OSH professionals are over 50 years of age and nearing retirement.

The scholarship programme forms part of a raft of initiatives that HASANZ is working on with business and sector leaders, tertiary institutions and government agencies, to meet the shortfall in OSH professionals.

HASANZ executive director Philip Aldridge said that the country’s first national online register of verified OSH professionals, which was launched on 27 July, re-emphasised the capability gaps among the country’s OSH professionals that had been identified as far back as 2013 when the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety published its report on the reasons for the country’s poor safety and health record.

Aldridge said there were only six qualified and practising occupational hygienists in the country. He added that as well as closing the capability gap, HASANZ also needed “to plan now for the changing nature of work and to create career pathways that encourage interest in health and safety as a rewarding career option”. 

“Our immediate priority is to help current health and safety practitioners take their skills to the next level and to encourage postgraduate study,” he said. 

The scholarship programme, which is funded by organisations including Air New Zealand, KiwiRail and Z Energy, provides successful applicants with up NZ$5,000 (£2,557) per year for up to two years, as well as practical experience and mentoring. Applications for scholarships to study in early 2019 close in late October. 

Minister for workplace relations and safety Iain Lees-Galloway, who announced the initiative at HASANZ’s second conference at Te Papa in Wellington on 5 September, said: “Access to further education to develop skills is key to ensuring an increased supply of qualified health and safety advisers into the future.

“[The scholarship programme] will contribute to a pipeline of professionals coming through the education system, so that Kiwi businesses can have better access to good health and safety advice to reduce workplace harm.”

Nick Warburton is deputy editor of IOSH Magazine 

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