Today’s workforce is already a complicated and multi-generational challenge. If you are a Baby Boomer and looking to develop your staff, are you ready for the challenge of ‘change’?
In public safety, change has always been met with struggles with employees saying that the change is not good for the department. Change can be seen as the impact on one when it has become a direct effect on one in the work place.
Well, today public safety organizations are seeing applicants and candidates applying for initial employment and promotions with college degrees even though one is not specifically required or asked for on an application. In past experiences, one could acquire a chief position simply by moving up the ladder within the organization. Today, when reviewing an application for a chief position of a fire department may require a master’s degree and/or an Executive Fire Officer (EFO) designation to be considered as a qualified applicant or candidate.
Looking at Younger Generations to Prepare a Department for Success
Starting at the high school level, many departments have the opportunity to sponsor an Explorers program where the students are able to gain experience — including some local, state and federal certifications. At the high school level, an advantage of participating in this type of program is that it can lead to a highly interested and dedicated student that could have great potential. The high school pathway also can direct a student to the community college route where the skills and abilities of progression are developed to another level and he or she can acquire an Associate’s degree. After the community college success, now comes the opportunity to move onto a Bachelor’s degree and then onto a Master’s degree. In short, these pathways offer a public safety or fire/EMS organization the opportunity to create positive and progressive avenues for students wanting to join the forces.
However, generational differences need to be onboard and have buy-in to the development of the younger generations entering the workforce. A progressive approach within any organization could be to create a mentorship program. In this, employees that are seen as leaders can become a mentor to the explorer students and actually provide guidance at each level from high school through college.
In the fire service and EMS, we have multiple avenues for the progression of these students and the mentorship can also be included. “Ride-Alongs” are an incredible way for the young and interested students to “see” what the action is all about either in the fire or EMS scenarios. They may not be able to actually “participate” in the fire or EMS scene but, being some part of a call will create the willingness to go for the job. In this, the mentor, can review the call with the student and review the procedures as well as quiz the student for recall and reassurance which can lead to a dedicated student.
Where Does the Mentorship End?
If you are part of a progressive department, mentorship never ends. Success in mentorship will create good relationships with people and also set standards for those wanting to join the forces with quality experiences and this can include relationships with local community colleges and other schools of higher education.
Who Is the Best Person to Be A Mentor?
In many fire/EMS departments there are those employees who are always ready and willing to train. These are the ones who also don’t mind getting dirty and getting in the trenches. They are the ones who build the props for training as well as the fire burn activities. They are the ones who arrive early and leave late without any fanfare. These are the one who are also the career athletes and are ready at a moment’s notice for help to any of their co-workers. You ask why? It’s a simple as, they are the ones who love the job and the people around them. These are the first responders that you want to show up for you if needed. These individuals have the personal understanding of what the public safety environment is like and they also enjoy demonstrating the required skills and abilities to anyone interested in the fire and EMS career field. When looking at the mentorship, they are most likely to volunteer to work a rookie academy or teach at a local community college. The mentor is one who enjoys giving back to the community and also one who the community looks up to for leadership and development of the youth and the department.
Whether a high school, community college, university or fire/EMS department, leadership will always dictate the direction of its people. Good leadership knows who are the mentors in each of the categories mentioned and we need to be sure that the newer generations gain the experience from the best of the best so that we can continue to have people interested in public safety and also have mentors excited to educate and train those that are willing to jump at the chance to be a first responder.
Mark Rivero worked for the City of Las Vegas, Nevada, Fire and Rescue from 1992 until 2011, holding positions as firefighter, training officer and, ultimately, professional development officer, creating degree pathways for fire service personnel and bringing in educational institutions to address higher education topics and degrees that were specific for the fire service. He currently serves as a program advisor/site coordinator for Southern Illinois University, and as the chairperson for the doctoral degree path committee for professional development at the National Fire Academy. He also works with the American Council on Education, reviewing fire service courses at various institutions across the United States. Rivero received his doctorate from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in 2004.
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