County Durham and Darlington FRS – the rising stars celebrated in National Apprenticeship Week

Meet Hollie Codling, Apprentice Firefighter from County Durham and Darlington Fire & Rescue Service

Apprentice Firefighter Hollie Coding has shared her insights about doing an apprenticeship at County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service (CDDFRS).

Apprentice Firefighter

“Prior to my apprenticeship with CDDFRS, I worked with people with Autism Spectrum Conditions and was studying my degree in counselling. I had previously worked in the volunteer fire service, in New Zealand and absolutely loved it. When I came back to live in the UK, whilst studying all I wanted to do was to become a Firefighter after I’d got the taste for it abroad.

“I applied online for their first cohort of Firefighter Apprentices and went through the application process which followed a series of tests, role related, psychometric testing, maths and english and a presentation to a panel. I have learned a wide variety of skills on the apprenticeship at CDDFRS and met a variety of wonderful people to work with.”

Importantly to prepare apprentices for End-Point Assessment, a variety of off the job learning takes place throughout an apprenticeship to develop skills and competencies:

“For my off the job learning, I have had to spend a lot of time revising the many aspects that it takes to become a Firefighter, as well as to work with the community. The initial firefighter training was challenging mentally, with a lot of information to take on and initially seemed very physical. Despite this being challenging, at the end of the apprenticeship, achieving competency, completing my End-Point Assessment, and feeling proud to be able to call myself a competent firefighter was incredibly rewarding and a definite highlight of the whole process.”

Here at SFJ Awards, we believe in championing apprenticeship career paths, and recognising the individuals who go on to have exciting careers in the key sectors we support. We asked Hollie what she might do next, having completed her End-Point Assessment and qualified:

“I hope to continue to develop my skills in firefighting and progress in my career, helping my colleagues and those that are going through the apprenticeship now (our company is currently taking on their 4th cohort of apprentices.)”

As we come to the end of another fantastic National Apprenticeship Week, it’s been our pleasure to share the stories from our apprentice champions. Hollie’s final top tips to anyone considering a role as an Apprentice Firefighter included:

“My best advice is to be committed to the role and understand the responsibility that becoming a firefighter will place on you. When it inevitably gets tough, on the apprenticeship, persevere through – that’s what will get you through the difficult times and help you achieve your goals.”

Meet Evie Peacock, Apprentice Firefighter from Country Durham and Darlington Fire & Rescue Service

Evie is currently undertaking the Operational Firefighter Apprenticeship with County Durham and Darlington Fire & Rescue Service (CDDFRS), in cohort 3. We recently heard her insights about how she got involved with the Apprenticeship scheme, and what it’s like to work in this role

“I was in college before applying for this apprenticeship however I was also part of the fire cadets at Bishop Auckland fire station. I saw adverts on Facebook and was told by my instructors at cadets about the apprenticeship scheme. I then went on to the CDDFRS website to apply before completing several stages including online tests, physical tests, and an interview to be successful.

“CDDFRS and they are a pleasure to work for. I have worked both in the headquarters of the service and now out on the fire stations and the SLT and staff have been pleasant throughout.”

An important part of apprenticeships in England is the support through off-the-job learning, we asked Evie more about the types of apprenticeship training she has been involved in, that would help prepare her for End-Point Assessment:

“As part of our apprenticeship programme we visit all the fire stations across our county for a period. A lot of my off the job training has been focused on the different specialist equipment each station has, as they all have something different. To do this I have done the research and created Powerpoints on the equipment and been on the drill yard with the operational crews learning how to use the equipment in practical scenarios.”

The last year has been incredibly challenging for the Fire and Rescue sector, and apprenticeships, with many processes and ways of working changing. Thankfully, special dispensations were agreed early in the lockdown to ensure apprentices were still able to progress through End-Point Assessment. Evie added in addition to the challenges of 2020, the job has other challenges too:

“The hardest part of the apprenticeship for me was the physical aspect of the job. I have built my fitness and strength over the last year and now do not see this as a problem. However, at the start of the apprenticeship, I was shocked at the physical demand and had perhaps underestimated how much training I should do before starting my basic training which involved a lot of fitness.

“The best part of the job for me is being a team and attending incidents. I get a great feeling from helping members of the public whether that be an incident or when working to prevent the incidents by engaging with people in our communities. I also enjoy being part of a watch where we work as a team at incidents and during training. I enjoy the training as I get lots of advice from experienced members of the crew which helps me when it comes to real emergencies.”

We heard about what Evie might do after her Apprenticeship, she added:

“By the end of the year, I am hoping to have a permanent station where I can settle in and concentrate more on training. Each station works slightly differently to adapt to demand within their station area. therefore, I am hoping to learn more about how my permeant station likes to operate so I can provide as much help as possible when working as a team. as part of the apprenticeship, I am also completing a business fire safety level 3 qualification which I hope to complete and score a distinction in.”

To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, we’ve shared a range of top tips from our Apprentice Champions across a variety of sectors. Evie added:

“Definitely do it! Make sure you do as much physical training as possible before joining to allow you be better prepared for the demand. Don’t be scared to ask questions a lot of people have great advice and are more than happy to help you.”

Cheryl Porter, Learning and Development Advisor at County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service added her insights about working with and championing Fire Service Apprenticeships

Cheryl is a Learning and Development Advisor with the CDDFRS and works closely with Operational Firefighter Apprentices, recruited through both national and regional recruitment campaigns.

“Working with Apprentices is excellent. It’s a fantastic opportunity both for us as an employer, and the individuals undertaking the apprenticeship. For anyone considering a role as an Apprentice Firefighter, you will develop key skills in a range of areas including teamwork, learning about the organisation, effective communication and you’ll grow in confidence.

“Although one of the most challenging parts, you’ll also learn specific Firefighter skills, such as the use of highly specialist equipment, to make you an effective Firefighter.

“For me personally, it’s so rewarding seeing our apprentices complete their journey, pass their End-Point Assessment and become competent Firefighters.

Cheryl plays a key role in the ongoing development of apprentices in the Fire sector, and had some sound advice for anyone thinking of becoming an Operational Firefighter Apprentice:

“Don’t give up. It’s extremely competitive but if you fail in the application process, make sure you apply again.”

From everyone at SFJ Awards, thank you to Hollie, Evie and Cheryl at Country Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service for their involvement in National Apprenticeship Week.

For ongoing insights about Apprenticeships and End-Point Assessments, follow @SFJAwards on twitter, and sign up to our newsletter below.

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