Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service will be welcoming 16 new wholetime firefighters, five of which are women, into the Service in its first recruitment drive for eight years.
The recruitment campaign, which began in December last year, will see the new recruits starting their training in August. The process was seen as an opportunity to challenge and alter outdated perceptions of the role of a firefighter by attracting a broader range of applicants.
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Glenn Askew wanted to make sure that all members of our community could consider applying.
He said: "The role of a firefighter has changed dramatically, even in recent years. We expect so much more of our firefighters in terms of their ability to adapt to a huge range of incident types and community work. However perceptions of our role in the community haven't really changed.
"This campaign and the subsequent selection process needed to allow us to attract a future workforce that reflects the diversity of our communities. Nationally only a little over 4% of UK firefighters are women. In 2017, we cannot allow this to continue and I'm proud that over 30% of those new recruits starting with us in August will be women.
"This was a rigorous process. We demand the highest standards across all disciplines and everyone has to pass the same tests."
The diversity of the fire and rescue service workforce is essential to making sure that it reflects the communities they serve.
Glenn continues to say:
"There are many different roles that make up the Service and each one works together to deliver the essential community and response services as efficiently and effectively as possible. We are committed to equality of opportunity and diversity and I think this is a great first step to reflecting that in our workforce.
"Even though this is our most successful recruitment process in terms of our intake reflecting the communities we serve, we are not complacent. We know that the next recruitment drive will need to see us working harder to make sure those groups underrepresented in our workforce apply to come and work for us."
Joining the 16 new recruits are a further 11 firefighters transferring from on call to wholetime and two of those are also female.
The campaign itself used both traditional and digital advertising. Leading up to the recruitment, community and sport groups and clubs that would predominantly be made up of female participants were contacted to let them know that the recruitment process was happening. Taster days were laid on for anyone to join in and there was a mix of both male and female participants. These allowed the Service to dispel any myths and give potential applicants a hands-on trial of the realities of the role.
The campaign, which ran through the two weeks that the application process was open, began using social media and the traditional media. PR opportunities were used with the local press covering the taster days and social media was also used to target those groups underrepresented.
The initial campaign saw female applicants make up 13% of those applying for the role.