The class of 2021 have formed an incredibly tight bond, supporting each other throughout the programme which had to be modified to meet Covid-19 measures.
The graduation ceremony, on Friday at the headquarters in Eastleigh, marks the culmination of 16 weeks of hard-work and arduous training, following an intensive application process.
The 16 recruits’ interest in the fire service was sparked by a pro-active campaign to promote the role of a modern-day firefighter to underrepresented groups such as females and those from BAME communities.
More than 1,300 applications flooded in when recruitment opened over a weekend in September last year.
Following a thorough selection process, the successful applicants were welcomed to the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service’s Learning and Development department in March, to begin their new careers.
Each of the graduates has now been assigned to a station where they will develop their knowledge as operational firefighters, a world away from their previous careers.
A teacher of 13 years, Sarah Newbrook has stepped away from the classroom to join the Cosham Blue Watch crew, whilst former lifeguard Harry Arnold is set to start with Red Watch.
Luke Holdcroft and Suhael Odeh will be based at Rushmoor Fire Station. Working at Fareham Fire Station will be Ben Brown and Richard Morgan. Southsea will be welcoming Grant Smith, Ben Taylor and Lucy Hilton.
Joe McNicholas is no stranger to fire, having worked as an Explosive Trials Technician. Joe will be putting out fires with Andover Fire Station.
In Southampton, Dan Howting and former coffee barista Max Silver will be starting their firefighter careers at Redbridge.
Kayleigh Jones, Samantha Paddington and Harry Drake will be responding to incidents from St Mary’s.
David Healey is transferring across from working in Southampton FC’s charity foundation, to join Green Watch at Hightown.
Learning and Development Group Manager Dean Haward said:
“In recent years the role of a firefighter has changed, with those starting their careers now learning a vast range of skills.
“From tackling fires, to providing emergency medical care and from extricating casualties from vehicles, to delivering important safety messaging, our firefighters have to be trained in it all to ensure they are prepared to arrive on station ready to help make life safer.
“Our new recruits have demonstrated the attitude and professionalism we live by as a Service and I am sure they will integrate seamlessly into their new stations and uphold our values as an organisation within the community.”
To ensure it was in line with Covid-19 guidelines, the course was adapted with the trainees split into two squads and initially based at different locations. Led by a dedicated watch and crew manager, the squads have been exposed to a similar management chain they will experience on station.
The course’s scenario-based training, strong emphasis on community safety and the built environment, and its focus on the use of technology, will see the trainees arrive on fire stations prepared for life as modern-day firefighters, having graduated from a training programme shaped around the Service’s values and priorities.
Graduating today, Firefighter Ben Taylor said:
“The variety of the course has given everyone a chance to show their own individual strengths, allowing us to learn from each other, and as a result develop better as firefighters.”
Firefighting in all its forms was covered over the 16-weeks, from practical drill yard training on road traffic collisions, water rescues, working at height and in confined spaces, as well as lessons on administering life-saving Immediate Emergency Care and on the Service’s prevention and community safety messages such as the Safe and Well visit programme.
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Shantha Dickinson said:
“I am delighted to see that our organisation is reaching more people from our underrepresented communities, and that they are seeing Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service as an environment that appeals to them with a culture that will see them thrive.
“Our new firefighters have worked incredibly hard to reach this momentous point, meeting the standards we demand of those who represent our badge.
“They have all demonstrated our Service values, by showing respect, playing their part to support each other, as they have reached further to achieve this important milestone in their firefighter careers.”
Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Authority Chairman, Cllr Rhydian Vaughan MBE said:
“It is a great honour to welcome new people into our fire service family.
“At the heart of our communities, our firefighters regularly display incredible courage to put themselves in potentially dangerous situations to protect others.
“Those graduating today have developed a range of skills and attributes that they will utilise each day on station, engaging with our communities, delivering safety messages and making life safer.”
The service is currently planning to open another firefighter recruitment window early next year following a second 2021 trainee course commencing in September, made up of more successful applicants from the previous recruitment window, ready to take their first steps on the firefighter career ladder.
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