Mentoring the Younger Generations

In previous articles we discussed the newer generations and how to incorporate the generational differences into the current expectations in the fire service culture. Mentoring is another optional for the new employee to experience the expectations of a department’s policies.

In the younger generations, technology has provided instant results and also has demonstrated that there is a need for excepted behaviors while on duty. As a “rookie” one is expected to volunteer for all activities within a station and even some times they are ridiculed for the eagerness to please the seasoned fire and EMS personnel. In today’s world of culture change, where does one see the change in the fire and EMS career field? When looking at creating a mentorship program within a department, management/administration should look at the individuals that demonstrate the “model” employee image and ask if they would be willing to assist in developing a mentorship program.

Mentoring should look at the training in both certificated and skill building areas as well as the mental and physical areas of fire and EMS. Initiating a development program gets buy-in from model employees and in turn, helps create well rounded new employees that are actually involved in the fire and EMS program. Including the following into a mentorship program can assist a department with the understanding that they are developing not only the new employee but, also re-enforcing the seasoned employee with development in themselves as well as the department.

In earlier articles we discussed GROOM:

G is for Graduate

We need to look into the graduation from a program whether it’s a high school, associates or bachelor’s degree program. Graduation is important simply because we know there is a trend to stick with the program to the end. The fire service and EMS is becoming an academic arena simply based on the required certificates required at each level.

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. These skills are also essential for success in the career field and also when mentoring.

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 will be valuable when mentoring.

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 that are numerous across the United States and now offered in the online format. In a mentoring program, these skills and abilities are refined and developed towards the department’s needs.

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. In the station life there will always be the need for managing people and programs. Mentoring can ensure that the newer employees are well trained in the policies of a department when looking at the station atmosphere and hopefully not lead astray.

So, where does the mentorship program and the younger generation fall in place. Well, let’s look at the 40-year-old captain and the 21-year-old rookie. The captain has skills and abilities that he gained while being on the job for 15 years. When the captain graduated from “rookie school,” he earned his Firefighter 1 and basic emergency medical technician certifications and went to the local community college for classes to get hired and promoted but never completed his associate’s degree. His career has been well distinguished and is also well respected within the local community and is involved with the fire explorers program for high school youth interested in public safety/fire and EMS. He has an understanding of the expectations as well as what is needed for one to get off probation and onto permanent status. What the captain sees for the future of his department is education in both fire and emergency services and is eager to get a rookie in his station.

What the new rookie has is experience in fire explorers, high school graduation and an associate’s degree in business technology. One can ask, how does this work for both the rookie and the captain? In the captain’s position, he is available to “mold” this employee into a model employee while he has full attention, the employee needs to get off probationary status and will follow the guidance presented by the captain and his crew. On the employee’s side, he has the opportunity to develop into a model firefighter/EMT and get onto permanent status. During this time the employee gets to know the department’s policies and procedures and also demonstrate that the skills and abilities gained during rookie school as well as the explorers program are well defined and accepted. The employee is also gaining new development as a regular employee and not as a stand-in or substitute.

The captain can also have the new employee demonstrate the abilities of newer technology, such as computers and graphics that can be of tremendous value to the department when doing inspections of buildings and structures. In the business area of the rookie’s degree, he can also look into taxes and potential funding sources or even assist the captain in submitting grants for the station as well as the department.

In mentoring, developing the employee in a positive atmosphere also leads to a more enjoyable workplace and the new employee will in turn be much more inclined to assist in real objectives that create a positive sense of belonging to the department. Mentorship should be incorporated to build character and the willingness to enjoy being part of the crew. And in the end we need to ask “what’s is the message” we are sending out?

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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