Mike Wacker, CSP, is loss control manager for Six & Geving Insurance and president of ASSE’s Southern Colorado chapter. In this interview, he discusses how the chapter is helping to encourage high school and college students to pursue careers in safety.
Please provide a brief description of your professional background and of your position as loss control manager for Six & Geving Insurance.
I have worked in the loss control consultant field for the insurance industry for 36+ years. I have worked with a variety of clients including construction, oil and gas, hospitality, multifamily housing, transportation and retail.
At Six & Geving Insurance, I assist clients in their safety and loss prevention efforts to help them with regulatory compliance, asset protection and hopefully reduced claim activity. Six & Geving Insurance management supports my efforts to the extent that we entered into an alliance with OSHA in May 2008.
You are president of ASSE’s Southern Colorado Chapter. Why did you decide to volunteer in this position, and what has your experience as chapter president been like thus far?
I have been an ASSE member for 30+ years and finally made the time commitment to give something back to the organization. My experience has been great! However, I could not do what we are doing as a chapter without a great supporting team and a supportive employer.
How is the Southern Colorado Chapter helping to encourage high school and college students to pursue careers in safety?
We have been involved in several high school career days in the Colorado Springs area, which has allowed us to promote the SH&E profession and ASSE. We have also been involved in an event in Colorado Springs called Southern Colorado Construction Career Days, which introduces high school students to the construction industry. We have chapter members who have served as mentors to some college students who are working toward a safety degree.
What are the most common questions students have about the SH&E profession? What concerns do they have about pursuing careers in safety given the unstable economy?
Common questions include:
Concerns about the economy have not come up so far.
When talking to young people, what have you emphasized as strengths of an SH&E career?
That every day as an SH&E professional is unique. I have found this to be especially true in the insurance industry. The situations you face, the people you deal with and the questions you are asked can be different each day.
From your perspective, how has the recession affected the SH&E profession?
In the Colorado Springs and Southern Colorado area, we have seen some layoffs and cutback in hours among SH&E professionals. SH&E professionals employed by businesses on military and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects are staying busy in our area, at least for right now. Some SH&E professionals have needed to diversify and broaden their job description.
What are the most important things new safety graduates should remember when it comes to resume writing and job search strategies, especially in today’s economy?
New safety graduates should remember to:
In what ways are you and your fellow chapter members helping seasoned SH&E professionals who are facing tough times?
We are a fairly small chapter. Our meetings are held at a different business location every other month. It is a great opportunity for networking with other SH&E professionals. One of our chapter officers had his hours cut in half by the company that employs him. Through networking, we were able to find him many temporary jobs and training seminars to conduct to help him subsidize his income during this time frame. The individual has now been restored to full time with his employer.
What advice do you have for college students who are newly enrolled in a safety curriculum?
The curriculum may be fairly set, depending on the specific safety, health or environmental area they pursue. However, I believe courses in public speaking, professional/technical writing and even psychology or sociology would be helpful to future SH&E professionals. SH&E professionals will need to work with and communicate with people in some form on a daily basis.
Additionally, join a local ASSE chapter or student chapter once you have decided on an SH&E career. It is never too soon to start networking and making contacts.
How can ASSE chapters work with colleges and universities to recruit future SH&E professionals?
In my opinion, it would be to identify counselors and contacts for business, engineering and other related schools of study for potential SH&E professionals at local colleges and universities. I would meet with them one-on-one or in small groups to indoctrinate them regarding the SH&E profession and so that they have a point of contact for future questions or information regarding our profession. I would want to find out if there are any school events that we might be able to attend to promote the SH&E profession. Larger ASSE chapters may even want to have a volunteer who would be a liaison between the chapter and local colleges and universities.
What are the Southern Colorado Chapter’s goals and objectives for 2010?
Our chapter will continue to be involved in local high school and construction career days. We want to reach out to past officers and members who have not been involved and hopefully encourage them to come to our meetings. Our meetings will continue to be held at local businesses in the Colorado Springs area, which may give SH&E professionals a different view of SH&E that they may not have encountered before.
He has 36 years of experience in the loss control insurance field. He has spent 20+ years working for an insurance carrier and almost 16 years in the insurance broker arena. He has assisted a variety of clients in their loss prevention and safety efforts, including construction, oil and gas, hospitality, multifamily housing, transportation and retail. He has also assisted clients with their safety and loss prevention issues through development of risk prevention/safety programs, employee and supervisory accountability programs, conducting site safety audits, developing and conducting training sessions, claims loss analysis and safety consulting.
A professional ASSE member since 1975, Wacker is also president of ASSE’s Southern Colorado Chapter and an OSHA 10-hour construction outreach trainer. He holds a B.B.A. in business management from Texas A&M University.