Apprentice Firefighter Rebecca Lillystone Changed Career Through a Firefighter Apprenticeship

Rebecca is enjoying her apprenticeship so much that she says “my advice for anyone thinking about applying would be 100% to apply – it is hands down the best job if you love challenging yourself and working as a team to help people. I feel a huge sense of pride when saying I work for an emergency service, especially County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service. Being able to serve and protect our local communities is really something special”.

Every year in England, around 300,000 join an apprenticeship programme and they do so from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some come straight from school or college, and some, like Rebecca, use an apprenticeship to change careers. Before becoming an Apprentice Firefighter, Rebecca was a primary school physical education teacher in Middlesbrough. She says “My apprenticeship journey started out a little differently due to Covid-19. After my four weeks of initial training, my colleagues and I volunteered at the Covid testing and vaccination sites across Durham and Darlington before moving on to complete my risk critical training course, which prepared me for heading out into the fire station”.

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For Rebecca, the best part of her apprenticeship so far has been bonding with her new colleagues and fellow apprentices – “For me, the best part was creating a bond as strong as family with my peers during our risk critical training course. I have loved being out on fire stations and being able to use my skills during real-life incidents, helping the local community in their hour of need”. This practical experience has been complemented with off-the-job learning, which has covered many topics, such as trauma, road traffic collisions, breathing apparatus, water rescue, and working at height.

Rebecca speaks excitedly about her training so far, which has provided her with new knowledge and benefitted her skills development in many different ways. Giving some examples, she says, “We are sent weekly updates with information on things such as electronic vehicles, lithium batteries, and electrical appliances that may have been recalled. We are also given learning points after the incidents we attend and also emailed learning points from incidents up and down the country so that we can incorporate these into our practice”.

Preparing for End-Point Assessment

At the end of her apprenticeship, Rebecca will complete an End-Point Assessment. However, she feels that her apprenticeship and working alongside her colleagues is good preparation – “I am currently attending college and carrying out fire safety audits to prepare for my End Point Assessment. I have also recently shadowed staff conducting audits and they have given me feedback and suggestions for improvement on dummy audits. The support from my peers and the staff working tirelessly to ensure I am ready for assessments, exams and all aspects of training is fantastic”. SFJ Awards is also on hand to support fire services in preparing their apprentices for their End-Point Assessment.

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Career Prospects for Qualified Firefighters

Looking towards the completion of her apprenticeship, Rebecca says, “Once I finish my apprenticeship, I hope to become a competent firefighter who can make a difference to the community I serve”. In many services, apprentices are guaranteed a job upon completion. Fully qualified firefighters earn an average salary of between £23,800 and £39,300. And the career ambitions don’t need to end there – for those wishing to work their way up, there are opportunities as crew managers, watch managers, station managers, and even as area managers.

Overall, when speaking about her decision to become an Apprentice Firefighter, Rebecca says, “To be able to help the people of County Durham and Darlington feel safe is a privilege. No two days are the same and having the knowledge, skills, and experience to respond to new challenges is what makes this the best job! I get to work alongside exceptional people who are helping me develop into the best firefighter I can be. I look forward to, one day, being able to do similar for new apprentices who are learning on-the-job like I am”.

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