GROOM Generations in the Workforce

In previous articles we have identified the different generations that are either entering or are currently in the workforce of their chosen field. In the fire service, we are going to look at the newest generation and how do we overcome the challenges that are rumored about the group within the ages of 16 and 21 years of age. This group is identified as Generation Z and it covers years 1997 to 2012.


Today’s fire and emergency services is very demanding both mentally and physically. With this the requirement/temperament of the premier or qualified employee, it can be a daunting task to recruit the right candidate for the career field. With the involvement of the Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education, (FESHE), there is an avenue available that can help build not only an educational pathway but also a career pathway to exposing the field of firefighting and emergency medical to high school students. By this exposure, the student gains experience and certifications that allow for fire and EMS departments to draw from with the student knowing what the expectations are.

In this high school pathway, there are numerous opportunities that include partnerships with high schools and community colleges that can combine physical and academic activities for credit at both levels. Another attractive avenue is what some departments call “Fire Explorers.” In this Explorers program, students are provided actual training in fire and EMS. In some ways this can be seen as an introduction to an apprenticeship of fire and EMS. I have created the acronym GROOM and this can look at what can be introduced to high school students and young adults. These examples are for those that say he/she was “Groomed” for the job.    

G is For Graduate

If a program is a high school pathway program, let’s get the students involved with the fire and EMS related classes that not only count for dual credit but also serve as credit for the necessary certifications required within our career field. Some restrictions on a person’s age may be evident but at least we are getting the skills developed and the understanding of what will be expected once one is a candidate for employment. Again, introduction of the demands of the career of fire and EMS.  

R is For Recruitment

The recruitment for staffing both fire and EMS is very demanding and competitive. If a student is involved in a high school pathway or an Explorers program, they will likely have developed knowledge, skills, and abilities that are required for both fire and EMS. Starting at an early age, high school, students turn into applicants that have demonstrated that they have acquired the skills and experience to meet the testing minimums. Recruiting will be seen as an easier task for any human resources department as these individuals are typically well trained and educated.

O is For Operational

This equates to the simple fact that one is able to perform the given tasks of firefighting or emergency medical services. Although they may be simple and basic commands or directives, the individual performing the directives can and will demonstrate those directives to a high level of expectancy based on the fact that the experience and discipline was gained in either the high school program or the Explorers program.

O is For Opportunity

As the young first responder begins a career, they can and will see the need for advancement in each of the fields. The opportunity that began in the high school and Explorers programs, will be present during one’s career and that opportunity will be granted to those who have taken advantage of fellow workers as well as college degree programs. These programs are numerous across the United States and now are even more than ever are being offered in the on-line format.

M is For Management

In both fire and EMS, there will be a time when the first responder will be tasked with managing people or programs. On emergency scenes, people are always looking for direction and the first responder will be the one who provides that direction. In the station life, there will always be the need for managing people and programs. Depending on the career ladder and interests of each responder, one will promote to a new position and begin managing people and programs.

In all of this where do we connect the dots and what are we looking to achieve? By knowing and understanding the various generations that will be employed during one’s career, you can learn how to put the best person in their best position and also be able to know and sometimes predict the outcomes of your students and employees. The Z generation is probably the most technical generation ever that also demands instant results. On the emergency scenes and up to the promotional scene, know what you expect from Generation Z employees and also provide them direction – GROOM. But, the early stages of development and exposure through high school pathways and Explorers programs helps develop the first responder to the life, expectancies and discipline of fire and EMS. Try to utilize their talents and share yours for the best of both worlds.

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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