Generations in the Workforce

Mark A. Rivero Ed.D

As we have discussed in previous articles, today, we may be faced with multiple generations working together. What is an interesting phenomenon is the expectations that each generation expects from the younger, newer generations and their work performance. Dedication to the job of older generations seems to think that the younger employees are not as dedicated to the job as they once were. Dedication to a Baby Boomer meant that you stayed on the job for 25 to 30 plus years and retired with one career job on your resume. Today, a new employee may have multiple jobs on their resume’ with what may seem as a very short employment history at each job. What is happening here is that the new generation is growing up with technology and never even imagined the Baby Boomer. Computers are said to be outdated six weeks after they are purchased because of the speed of development. In turn, how does this relate to job dedication in the newer generations? Progress in the fire service has changed dramatically since the implementation of petroleum products to almost everything made today. With this type of change, what does job dedication mean to all generations that are currently employed at all levels within the fire service, and how do we create the environment for new employees to dedicate themselves to a 25 to 30-year career? 

One of the ways is really described today’s fire and emergency services as a career and not a job. The fire service of today can and does offer opportunities in education fields that lead to college degrees, from certifications, and credentials up to terminal degrees that can create additional opportunities after a career within the fire and emergency services field. Ideas come from within the employees of each field as well as those that have been in other career fields outside of fire and ems. But, what brings interest to the fire and ems field? If one watches television a lot, they can see that public safety has multiple action-packed opportunities. But what is not seen is how dedicated these people are and the sacrifices they have made in real life. Where do we recruit these highly dedicated people from, and how do we keep them for a career? As we have discussed in previous articles, dedicated people in any career field are hard to find, but in the world of fire and emergency services, employees can and will get burned out for many reasons. Stress and health issues are just as much present in public safety as in any other career field. However, in the fire and emergency services, administrators of any department, whether volunteer or career, must look at the value of each employee. Once the employee can see that they are valued, they can start to feel the need to be dedicated to the department as well as the community to which they serve. When the community sees the value of the fire and emergency services, they also create a positive feeling and will recognize the emergency services for the efforts they put forth. Recognition of the workforce pays great dividends in the long run, and it also is a key to the employees being dedicated to the career, and this is only one way of many to create a dedicated employee that will be employed for more than just a short while. All generations need to realize that change takes place, and we need to make a change so that our employees can have the tools necessary to do the job; when we have what we need, dedication and a full career will be rewarded to all involved.

Mark Rivero worked for the City of Las Vegas, Nevada, Fire and Rescue until 2011, as firefighter, training officer and ultimately professional development officer, creating degree pathways for fire service personnel. He currently serves as a program advisor/site coordinator for Southern Illinois University and as chairperson for the doctoral degree path committee for professional development at the National Fire Academy. Rivero also works with the American Council on Education, reviewing fire service courses at various institutions across the United States. He received his doctorate from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2004.

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