To coincide with National Apprenticeship Week, employers in fire and rescue services share their experiences of taking on apprentices across a range of roles.
I spoke to Kathy Collis from Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service; Linsey Daniels from Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service and Cheryl Porter from County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service.
What sort of apprenticeships do you offer and how do you find suitable candidates?
Kathy Collis (KC): We offer Operational Firefighter, Emergency Call Handler, Project Management and Business Administration apprenticeships. We take on new recruits and existing staff members to either support the role they are already in or develop into a new role.
Linsey Daniels (LD): We advertise all our opportunities for apprentice Community Safety Advisors and Operational Firefighters via our website, and we recruit apprentices on to the Operational Firefighter apprenticeship through our whole-time firefighter process.
What is the best thing about apprenticeships and what value do they bring to your organisation?
KC: It is inspirational to work with apprentices, to support their individual journeys, whether they are new to the service or wishing to develop and progress their careers.
Cheryl Porter (CP): I take a great sense of pride working with apprentices, and as a service a considerable amount of time and effort goes into making the programme work. This has paid dividends and we are now seeing our earlier cohorts begin to success through the rank structure.
What is the most challenging thing about becoming an apprentice in the fire and rescue service?
CP: There is a rigorous application and selection process. As the fire and rescue service is dealing with emergency, life critical incidents, this could also be challenging for individuals, however we have a fantastic support system in place for this.
LD: The situations our apprentices can find themselves in can be challenging, which is why personal resilience is so important to deal with these experiences and perform effectively.
How as an organisation do you support your apprentices?
CP: We felt it was really important for line managers to understand what is required from both them and the apprentice, so we have hosted training sessions with them, outlining the expectations and support required.
KC: Apprentices do a mock assessment which is part of their competence assessment in the service which then helps them to improve their confidence for the End-Point assessment.
LD: We provide our apprentices with the opportunity, through training, work experiences and work placements to develop their knowledge, skills and behaviours to underpin their evidence required for the apprenticeship.
What advice do you have for would be apprentices?
LD: Invest in your personal development, develop the key skills that are important to our organisation and have a desire to support and serve your community while living the service’s core values.
KC: Discuss it with someone who has completed an apprenticeship and their support team to find out how much help you get and understand the commitment to recognise what you need and how it can support you to develop as a person.
CP: Work hard on your physical fitness. This is something that is expected of you throughout your career.
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