The skills gap not only is present in the traditional manufacturing setting but also extends to occupational health and safety careers as well.

While students may show an interest in STEM education in engineering, biology, or toxicology, many of them are not aware of careers in areas such as industrial hygiene, says Sue Marchese, director of marketing and communications for the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA).

Because of this, AIHA is engaging its members in the effort to educate students about the pathways that exist.

"We always say that it's like CSI was many years ago – 15 or 20 years ago nobody knew what a forensic scientist was," Marchese says. "We're hoping to educate STEM students – because they either have a proclivity towards research and prevention of illness or correction of illness – that industrial hygiene not only is out there, but a growing field and it pays quite well."

The organization's membership is aware that the industrial hygiene profession needs to be perpetuated, she says. So, AIHA has begun to work with its local chapters to bring educational materials and seminars to local school districts.

Much of the effort to date has been grassroots, with association members volunteering to present to classrooms full of STEM students, using multimedia toolkits, slideshow presentations, videos, dossiers and comic books.

So far, small achievements along the way already have shaped students and provided public outreach about careers in industrial hygiene, Marchese says.

Logan Smith, a high school senior, from Bloomington, Ill. provided the following feedback after an AIHA-sponsored education session:

"Industrial hygiene is an important and often overlooked part of the workplace. An industrial hygienist's job is to minimize or eliminate hazards in a work environment.

They must partner with workers to detect and correct health issues in the workplace...." he wrote. "This video has influenced me to consider industrial hygiene as a possible career choice in my life. In my own workplace, I often point out safety issues that are overlooked or need attention. I personally believe there are many things in life and the workplace that are hazardous and can be avoided, but often are not."