SRU safety management students stake claims for jobs through internships
Safety managers are in demand for construction sites and many companies identify Slippery Rock University as a place to recruit interns and future safety management professionals.
Sept. 27, 2021
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Erica Northrop, the mother of two children, had a job and a master's degree. Then she decided to change careers, and in doing so she enrolled at Slippery Rock University because of the opportunities that SRU provides through its safety management program.
Northrop, a post-baccalaureate student majoring in safety management from Butler, has many reasons for pursuing a second bachelor's degree. She wants to "delve deeper" into a specialized business and have greater opportunities for higher-paying, satisfying jobs that can offer a work/life balance so she can be available to her family. But what's also available to her are access to internships and employers that prefer to hire SRU graduates.
Northrop was one of more than 150 SRU safety management majors who completed internships this summer. She worked as a risk control intern for Travelers Insurance, helping conduct assessments and surveys at more than a dozen client sites in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.
"When I was researching SRU's program and talking to people who were out in the safety management industry, I learned that the program here really stands out," Northrop said. "And my internship only confirmed what I had already found out about SRU. I talked to people who came from bigger schools about the exposure they received in their curriculum, and it made me realize that SRU has a better overall program to prepare students."
SRU safety management students have interned with a variety of employers, from large construction companies, such as Kokosing, to smaller, family-owned manufacturing businesses, such as Adams Manufacturing in nearby Portersville. There are some obvious destinations for interns, such as MSA, a Pittsburgh-based global safety equipment manufacturer, while many retailers and other businesses known to the general public, such as Sheetz convenience stores, also have needs for safety professionals.
"These companies see SRU as a place to reach quality students who are prepared to do the job," said Joseph Cali, professor of safety management and department chair. "The students benefit by interning because they are sometimes auditioning for a full-time job with companies. Often there are jobs waiting for them at the end of an internship, but the students also benefit by getting valuable, real-world experience. They're also networking. An internship supervisor is a great reference in addition to our faculty."
There are many companies that have partnered with SRU in a variety of ways, including those who have donated equipment and/or have had facilities in the Strain Safety Building named after them, such as MSA and Kokosing. Also, more than 60 employers regularly attend job fairs at SRU specifically for safety management majors.
Northrop recognized these connections before enrolling at SRU, but she also previously interacted with Travelers as their client, having processed worker's compensation benefits while working in a human resources job for a supermarket chain. That experience led to her interest with Travelers before she started her internship with the company this summer. During her three-month appointment, she worked closely with Travelers' risk control consultants and ergonomists to analyze and improve clients' vulnerabilities so they can have better rates, fewer claims and more cost certainty.
"We'd look at workers' compensation claims to identify their leading indicators (of employee injuries), such as strains and sprains, and how that drives costs," Northrop said. "Our goal as risk consultants is to get a feel for the safety culture at a company and see where maybe our services can assist them."
The services aren't limited to ergonomics, which is studying how the human body's work processes can be improved to prevent injuries, but also equipping clients with instruments that prevent certain exposures. One example of exposure is to silica, which is often used in the construction and oil and gas industries and can be harmful if regularly inhaled. Travelers also worked with manufacturing clients and their property risks, evaluating them for things such as having adequate sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers.
Northrop wants to eventually work in risk control and she said she will benefit from the opportunities she had during her internship presenting her work to senior leaders at Travelers and learning more about their views and what is preferred from prospective employees.
She also said SRU faculty and classes, such as Management Integration, will help her apply her knowledge in a professional setting.
"I know the passion that the SRU faculty have to put quality safety managers out in the workforce," Northrop said. "There are a lot of SRU safety management graduates out in the workforce, so when an employer has a position open, they come here. This is a really good time to take advantage of the safety management program because employers are looking for people who can jump right in."
More information about the safety management program at SRU is available on the department's webpage.
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