When Carlos Alvarado started his safety career, he never could have imagined how integral a commitment to professional education could be in expanding his ability to keep people safe and inspire the next generation of other professionals in his field.
Before becoming the safety director at Hemma Concrete, Alvarado's journey to advance in the safety and health profession was not a simple process. He understood that to establish credibility and expand his knowledge, he would need to invest in additional credentials and education. "I know many people who have tons of experience on a resume but no industry certifications," he said. "You really have to explain what sets you apart from the competition."
Early in his career, Alvarado recalled how difficult it was to take classes and work full-time. "I remember that I would have to take classes during the day and work at night. However, I'm a hard worker, and it was a balancing act." He knew that a supportive team that embraced professional development would be key to his career growth. Now, as a manager, he aims to do the same for his staff.
Continuing education has been instrumental in him achieving his professional goals. "I chose Georgia Tech because many people in my industry told me how great it was. Also, there is no secret that it is a reputable university that many employers will recognize on a resume," he stated.
Alvarado was motivated to complete safety and health courses and certificates with Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE) because he felt that it would better his career and keep pace with emerging trends within the industry. He also liked that the instructors were accomplished practitioners who understood the current climate of the profession. For example, Pam Fisher, an instructor in Advanced Safety Management was influential in helping him "sell" safety as a concept — not only as policies and regulations — to various stakeholders. "People often associate occupational safety with rules and regulations. It is so much more than that."
Alvarado enjoys seeing the bigger picture of how the curriculum in the classroom connects and informs his industry. He explained how his time in the program helped him properly prevent and manage incidents and how to properly document them. While he strives to avoid any injury or accident, he believes that these incidents serve as a lesson and a reminder to continually assess and review their organizational safety practices and regularly educate all employees on how to keep themselves safe. "The excavation, scaffolding, OSHA 500 Trainer Course, and management classes have helped me as a director to ensure safety in a variety of contexts," he explained.
Alvarado recalled how his father worked in construction and has seen firsthand the traumatic impact of work-related losses on families. He saw the Georgia Safety, Health and Environmental Conference and annual silent auction to benefit Kids’ Chance of Georgia as an opportunity to help affected families while developing the next generation of safety and health professionals. For years, Georgia Tech's OSHA Training Institute Education Center (OTIEC) within GTPE, has contributed a full certificate in either construction or general industry safety and health to benefit Kids’ Chance, a nonprofit that provides financial scholarships to children of seriously or fatally injured workers.
“It’s incredibly meaningful to know that through a Kids’ Chance scholarship, a child -- who has had so much stolen from them due to the devastating emotional and financial impact a workplace injury or fatality had on their family – can be supported and hopeful about their future…and that the student recipient of our Safety & Health Certificate Program will go on to pursue prevention strategies for workplace hazards and save lives. I’m proud for us to be a part of someone’s story.” said Hilarie Warren, director of OTIEC.
After placing the winning bid for the certificate program, Alvarado gifted it to one of his employees, a current learner in the OSHA program. "Winning was bigger than me," he recalled. "I got to contribute to a family that has sustained a loss and professionally develop one of my team members."
During the silent auction, he was determined to place the winning bid for the certificate. "I remember calling the owner of my company and explaining the value of this certificate to affected families and Hemma. He fully supported my decision and told me to bid what I needed to win."
Over the course of his career, Alvarado has amassed over 40 safety and health certifications. Hemma Concrete, under his leadership over occupational health and safety, has received five safety awards from the American Society of Concrete Contractors (ASCC); Zero Lost Time, Improvement, and Recognition Awards; and the prestigious W. Burr Bennett Award for Safety Excellence, for which only 10% of all contractors in the ASCC are invited to apply. These awards are a testament to Hemma's commitment to occupational health and safety and staying abreast of emerging trends. And he looks forward to taking additional professional education courses and certificates.