Sunday May 27, 2012
Insight: Growing Product Safety Education at the University LevelBy Donald Kornblet and Dr. Ik-Whan Kwon, Ph.D.
Saint Louis University recently announced an expansion of its product safety curriculum, resulting in four different offerings during the 2012/2013 academic year.
The four courses are: 1). Product Safety Management Advanced Certificate program (September 24-28, 2012); 2). Risk Assessment Workshop offering a Certificate in Product Safety Analysis (February 4 & 5, 2013); the Certificate in Product Safety Management course (April 15 &16, 2013 opening workshop); and Product Safety Manufacturing Practices Certificate program (June 24-26, 2013)
The announcement, and what led to this expansion, is revealing for its insight into how product safety education is being accepted by companies, product safety leaders, and in the halls of the university.
Between 2010 and 2012, the Center for Supply Chain Management Studies at Saint Louis University has convened 4 classes offering the general survey course now known as the Certificate in Product Safety Management. Over 50 product safety professionals from more than 40 companies have completed the course. Industries represented among these companies include: home décor and furnishings, home appliances, publishing, greeting cards, general and specialty retailing, promotional products, toys, children and juvenile products, apparel, marine products, technology software and hardware, sleep products, household cleaning products, and general consumer products. Ten companies have sent multiple personnel to participate in the different Certificate in Product Safety Management classes.
Each class is surveyed for their feedback so that course planners could understand what students liked, as well as did not like, about the course they had completed. This feedback provided insight valuable in two critical ways: 1) it helped improve the course for subsequent classes, and 2) it provided class member feedback for new courses that might be considered. Typical of such feedback was one comment from Class 1: “You did a good job on product safety 101. What are you going to offer for 102?” Encouragement like this, as well as feedback on specific course models, led to the selection of the course expansion just announced.
Product safety leader acceptance:
From across the spectrum, an instructor faculty group of over 30 industry leaders, product safety advocates, government officials, and industry service providers has shown consistent support for the course including attorneys, engineers, scientists, standards officials, economists, risk management experts, supply chain experts, and product recall management experts. These professionals have shared their expertise and real life experiences (without breaching confidentialities). Third party service providers have even funded scholarships so that students otherwise unable can attend the course. Staff and commissioners from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission have provided instruction and perspective on general and specific regulations and compliance matters affecting companies.
Introducing new courses and new curriculum in a large university takes time, patience, and support of academic leaders. Without advocates, a sustainable education program such as product safety management is difficult to implement. Over the past 4 years since its inception by Saint Louis University, there has been continuous support from the university’s John Cook School of Business. Under the leadership of the Dean of the Business School, Ellen Harshman, faculty and administrators within the school, have become engaged by participation in class room activities and course events. Dean Harshman even looked beyond Saint Louis University by sharing information on our product safety program with her professional colleagues at business schools across America. In this way, the university is helping to broaden the constituency for product safety education with the community of higher education institutions. We know from the steady stream of inquiries coming into the Center for Supply Chain Management Studies that there is growing awareness of these new opportunities in university level education for product safety professionals. We look forward to continuing our own engagement in this new area, and helping to build appreciation around the world for this educational effort to support industry with a goal of producing safe consumer products.
Dr. Ik-Whan Kwon is Professor of Supply Chain Management and the Director of the Center for Supply Chain Management Studies at Saint Louis University. Donald Kornblet, president of ADK Information Services, LLC, is the product safety adviser and course developer at the Center. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.