What’s the best way to draw a younger generation of code officials and inspectors to fill the void of Baby Boomers who have retired or will soon?

First of all, don’t use the word “code.”

“I asked a younger person what they thought of when I said the word ‘code,'” said International Code Council Career Development Coordinator Jim Ellwood. “And they always say, ‘my computer,’ as in putting together codes for their computer programs.”

“We learned we needed to say, ‘building safety.'”

And the Code Council also needed a term that showed those who had devoted their lives to “building safety” were ready to embrace and mentor a new generation.

Thus was born the “Safety 2.0,” initiative, comprising new and existing Code Council programs aimed at finding a niche for young, talented building officials. “2.0,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is Millennial-speak for “a superior or more advanced version of an original concept, product and service.”

The initiative, if not the name, was the brainchild of Alex “Cash” Olszowy, a past president of the ICC Board of Directors, and building inspection manager, residential section, for Lexington, Ky.

As he did in his inaugural speech as incoming president in 2015, Olszowy explained what drove him to come up with Safety 2.0.

“When I first came on the ICC board, Past President Jimmy Brothers encouraged us to ‘throw deep,’ meaning make no small plans. Then before me, Past President Guy Tomberlin challenged us to prepare for the ‘next generation.'”

“So when I came on as President, I wanted to put those words into action. Let’s find a way to ‘throw deep to our next generation.'”

Olszowy knew ICC already had some great programs, such as the High School Technical Training Program (HSTTP), founded in 2011 by Sara Yerkes, senior vice president of ICC Government Relations, and driven with great success since by Ellwood.

Ellwood said HSTTP, a nationwide educational program that helps prepare high school students and junior college students for careers in code enforcement and the construction trades, fits in perfectly under the Safety 2.0 umbrella.

So does a more recent Yerkes/Ellwood venture — the Military Families Career Path Program — which promotes building safety careers for military personnel after service. Even those who didn’t have code-related training in the service still can build on military training that helps them adapt to a career in building safety, Ellwood said.

The new Safety 2.0 website and a handy infographic can give those interested all they need to jump on the road to a career in building safety.

“These and other programs under Safety 2.0 provide career paths for people, whether they go to college, or into the military, or into the trades,” Ellwood said. “There is a path for just about everyone.”

That was the point of Safety 2.0, said Olszowy.

“We wanted to put all the programs under one umbrella,” said Olszowy, who was impressed with the new website. On that site, people can see all the pathways to careers in building safety, including HSTTP and the military program, as well as:

  • The Chapter Leadership Academy: an exclusive annual event for chapter leaders to discuss and strengthen important skills related to chapter management, legal considerations, member recruitment and retention, and effective communications.
  • The Board Shadow Program: an opportunity for potential leaders under the age of 35, or with less than 10 years of experience in the industry, to shadow the board of directors at the ICC Annual Conference. Board “shadows” experience real-time leadership as they observe their board mentors representing the members at conference.
  • Journey to Leadership: an initiative of the Past Presiding Officers Council to educate and mentor the next generation of code officials, emphasizing the value of leadership and management skills as an important supplement to technical expertise.
Download the Safety 2.0 infographic

The initiative is funded by players and sponsors of the Ron Burton Annual Golf Outing, planned in conjunction with ICC’s annual meetings, to continue the educational legacy of Burton, who passed away suddenly in 2014.

Henry Green, Bill Dupler, Wally Bailey and several other past presidents and chairmen of ICC and its predecessor organizations had the idea to honor Burton’s legacy with an annual golf outing that would raise funds for programs to train future leaders.

Funds supported presentations given by those leaders to help young colleagues achieve the next level and beyond. Programs focus not on codes, but on the soft skills a person can use to help them and their employees get to where they want to go in their careers.

  • Building Safety Career Path Initiative: introduces the building safety profession as an exciting and attractive career option for individuals and audiences not traditionally connected to building safety. A toolkit provides a virtual progression through the building safety career path, identifying points of engagement, goals for achievement and opportunities for building safety professionals to advance their careers.
  • Value of the Code Official Initiative: provides a toolkit for members to heighten awareness of the importance of code officials to their communities and to highlight the code official’s role as a helpful advocate for community safety, health and welfare, and economic development.
  • ICC’s Technology Strategy: continues to digitize the association’s products and processes for the benefit of its members. Initiatives such as remote voting and automation of the code development process through cdpACCESS and the digital codes platform, premiumACCESS; launch of PRONTO for online certification exams; and reliable, secure electronic voting devices for code hearings and business meetings are just a few of the innovations transforming ICC.

Another of the Safety 2.0 programs is the Emerging Leaders Membership Council (ELMC). The council serves as an entry point for new, motivated members to engage in the activities of the Code Council.

Olszowy is proud to have a mentee on the ELMC. Elizabeth Arrington is a plans reviewer in his Lexington office. A graduate of Western Kentucky University, she had the choice at one point of following a career in architecture or pursuing building safety.

Not that she couldn’t have done both. But she said architecture would have taken a few more years of school, and she wanted to get her career started right away. Working in Lexington with Olszowy, she said, has helped her achieve several certifications, as well as already teaching small classes in framing, where Olszowy got his start as well.

“He was a political science major in college,” Arrington said, “but he had experience in framing. So building officials can start from just about anywhere.”

Arrington said Olszowy will use the Socratic method to help her learn the codes and the reasons for them.

“He’ll pose an issue, and then he’ll ask me what I would do,” she said. “When I answer, I’ll need to come back with information backed by the codes. And then we’ll talk about different approaches and the background of the codes and how they were formed.”

One of the main tasks of the ELMC is finding a way to draw even more of their young colleagues. Arrington said she has some ideas on how to do that.

“It’s more than just about making money; they want to make a difference,” she said. “So we have to stress the importance of the work code officials do. A lot of times, people don’t see it. We hear a lot about first-responders; I tell people I’m a ‘first-preventer.'”

“They also want flexibility so they can spend time with their families. I’ll work long days four days a week, but then I’ll have three days off.”

Olszowy said he wants to take an interest in young potential colleagues the same way he was drawn into building safety. He was working as the owner/operator of a small construction company in Lexington when a friend suggested he would be good for a career in code enforcement.

For building safety to thrive into the next generation, he said people in the business now need to do the same. As he said in his 2015 speech:

“Embrace these young men and women, take them under your wing, show them the ropes and give them purpose…The future leaders of this association are among us and back home waiting for a chance.”