West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service reports on its innovative method of training instructors and assessing competence.

Decisions about value for money are a daily reality. We are constantly choosing which services to buy, and judging the right balance between quality and cost. West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) have come up with an innovative way of training instructors to become competent in teaching their core subjects and assessing competence of the workforce, which achieves the right balance between economy, efficiency, and effectiveness. 


Why Is It Important?   

Operational competence should have real meaning in the context of the workplace. A person is competent not just because of what they can do but because of how they apply that ability in the work environment, in particular at operational incidents or realistic simulations.

The acquisition of skills and knowledge through training is essential, but individuals should show that they can apply them in realistic situations, eg, at incidents, during fire safety events and other aspects of their role. It is possible to train for competence, but competence is more than training, it is empowering and developmental. Competence is about success in the real world. It is for this reason that workplace assessment is so important.


Assessing Competence in the Workplace 

National Occupational Standards (NOS) are statements of performance individuals are expected to demonstrate to be confirmed as competent when carrying out activities in the workplace. NOS describe what an individual needs to be able to do, as well as what they need to know and understand. They provide a means for fire and rescue services to develop their workforce and to assess their competence in the workplace or in realistic simulation to a national standard. They provide a practical route for assessing competence against nationally agreed standards of performance, across all operational roles.  

For operational competence, NOS ensure a consistent approach to planning, delivering, measuring, and assessing performance.

WYFRS quality assure competence of the workforce using skilled and competent instructors, who receive core operational training eg, Breathing Apparatus, an instructor qualification Preparing to Teach in the Life Long Learning Sector (PTTLS), and finally an Assessor Award qualification. 

Previously, instructors attended a four-day PTTLS course at the training centre delivered by Leeds City College and then achieved their Assessor Award separately delivered by an in-house team. The total time spent on developing instructors for their PTTLS and Assessor Award totalled on average 12 days. 


Outsourced Solution 

A fundamental review of this training provision identified an opportunity to reduce costs in labour, materials and time by combining and outsourcing both qualifications to Leeds City College into a four-day course (two days for PTTLS and two days for the Assessor Award).

The business development team at Leeds City College mapped the content of the latest PTTLS and Assessor Award against WYFRS instructor/assessor roles, and as a result, a combined qualification is awarded in one course.

After attending the four-day course the instructors return to their workplace and Leeds City College staff use two further days to quality assure the instructor's competence in teaching and assessment in a real work environment, eg, on the fireground and in all other areas.  Therefore, reducing the days spent learning from 12 to six.

Area Manager for Service Delivery Steve Rhodes said: "It was not all about cuts; it's what can be achieved in different ways to improve the output for the same input. The challenge was to come up with an innovative way to create efficiencies without reducing quality, and focus on improvement." 

To find out more about the benefits of combining courses see the June issue of FIRE.


Posted July 2nd, 2012 at 0935 by Andrew. Comment by emailing: andrew.lynch@pavpub.com