With youth unemployment at an all-time high it is easy to see why apprenticeships are seen as a high priority for the government, says Skills for Justice. However even though the public sector account for some 20 per cent of the national workforce, they employ less than 10 per cent of all apprentices.

In an attempt to re-address the balance, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service has embraced apprenticeships and is already reaping the benefits. 

The service worked closely with Skills for Justice to develop the Emergency Fire and Rescue Apprenticeship Framework, which is ensuring that apprentices receive the best possible start to their careers in the fire and rescue service. As well as providing valuable input to the development of the apprenticeship framework, the service was able to benefit from Skills for Justice's Funding Wizard, which helps organisations to search across the full spectrum of local, regional and national funding opportunities available

Apprentice firefighter Duncan McHugh said: "This is the greatest opportunity anyone who is interested in becoming a firefighter could be given."

Skills for Justice is tasked with developing and maintaining apprenticeship frameworks. The sector skills council for the justice, community safety and legal services sectors works closely with employers to make sure the frameworks are completely up to date and ensuring it meets the changing needs of fire services and professionals. 

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service's apprenticeship programme currently employs six firefighter apprentices, five business administration apprentices, one motor vehicle apprentice, one catering apprentice and a finance apprentice.

The programmes vary in length but are typically between two and three years' duration and allow the apprentice to gain specialist vocational and academic qualifications relevant to the area of work.

Apprentice firefighter Duncan McHugh, 20, joined the programme in March 2010. In addition to being a fully trained firefighter, his apprenticeship has enabled him to complete a set of recognised qualifications covering emergency operations and key skills such as communication. Before being placed at Stafford Fire Station as an apprentice firefighter, Duncan undertook eight weeks of training − three weeks of core firefighting skills, followed by specialist modules involving hazardous materials, safety and extrication of casualties at road traffic collisions, the use of breathing apparatus and 'First Person on Scene' trauma care training − run by the West Midlands Ambulance Service.

He said: "I am hoping that by the end of my apprenticeship I will be successful in securing a position to remain in Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service. I would highly recommend the programme to anyone or any other organisation; it is a great way to give individuals the opportunity to become a firefighter. Although apprentices receive a lesser amount of pay, the scheme is worth its weight in gold as it gives me the experience and enjoyment of a job I have aspired to do for a long time."

As well as benefitting the apprentices, the employers also reap the benefits.

Tim Wareham, Training Manager for Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: "Apprenticeships boost morale and motivation and increase the standard of training. When you have people on a recognised training programme, their energy and motivation levels are very high. This can only be a good thing for us.

"Apprenticeships are a great way to train and upskill our workforce. They allow us to bring in younger people to the force, developing our workforce with the right skills for the future."

Tim said: "We are very proud of our working relationship with Skills for Justice. The Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service fully supports their work and we will continue to work in partnership with them well into the future."

To find out more about how Skills for Justice visit: www.skillsforjustice.com 


Photo: Apprentice firefighter Duncan McHugh


Posted February 8th, 2012 at 1100 by Andrew. Comment by emailing: andrew.lynch@pavpub.com