Meet Apprentice Stephen Paul, from Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service

Stephen has recently undertaken the Community Safety Advisor Apprenticeship with the Cheshire Fire & Rescue service, and we recently heard from him about what it is like to be an apprentice in the sector.

“Prior to starting the apprenticeship, I worked as an HGV driver for a firm based in Shropshire. I knew that I wanted to work in public service and serve my community, so when the opportunity arose to apply for this programme, I filled out the application form as soon as possible!

“The selection process was rigorous, assessing numerous skills and behaviours including teamwork, planning, presentation skills and previous experience. I was fortunate to be one of the twelve candidates offered a position. I now work within the Prevention department, alongside prevention staff that aim to prevent fires, accidents and improve the wellbeing of people in Cheshire.

“I gained a vast amount of experience performing home safety and wellness visits, assisting as leaders with the Cheshire Fire, taking part in safety impact days and campaigns, and delivering safety programmes to primary and secondary school children at the Service’s interactive life skills centre.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue service is a fantastic organisation to work for, the programme has been comprehensive and provided many opportunities to learn and develop an understanding of community safety, participating in all aspects of the Service’s approach to helping people of all ages stay safe from harm.”

We asked Stephen about the kinds of activities undertaken in off-the-job learning, an important aspect of apprenticeship training.

“Alongside our role within the prevention department, we have taken part in other training related to community safety, including safeguarding, behavioural change techniques, first aid, equality, diversity & inclusion, conflict management, fire science and fire setting intervention techniques. We have gained an understanding of aspects of the wider Service’s roles and responsibilities with the Operational Training Group and the Protection department.”

The last 12 months have been enormously challenging for all those working in the Fire & Rescue sector, particularly in training roles or still learning the role. Stephen added:

“Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic much of our normal community safety work was either suspended, scaled back or modified to be Covid safe. As a result, the Prevention department, including apprentices, took on numerous roles to help support the community.

This included carrying out wellness checks on vulnerable individuals who were shielding, delivering supplies to local foodbanks, fitting facemasks for North West Ambulance Service staff, assisting the NHS carry out swab tests on patients going into hospital for pre-planned procedures, making regular deliveries of PPE and cleaning supplies to the fire stations, marshalling at Covid-19 vaccination sites. This was a challenge, but everybody stepped up to provide these essential roles during this difficult time.”

Despite the challenges faced throughout the last year to support the national fight against Covid-19, Stephan has enjoyed many aspects of his role, adding:

“The best part has been working with friendly, professional people who provide the best service possible to keep the community safe and well. In addition, they are always willing to help and support each other and provide advice and guidance where needed.”

Since completing the Community Safety Apprenticeship, Stephen has progressed, having recently started the Operational Firefighter Apprenticeship.

“The knowledge, skills and behaviours I have developed in my first apprenticeship will be invaluable going into this new role.”

As part of the national campaign celebrating apprenticeships in Fire & Rescue services, we asked Stephen for his top tips to anyone considering the career path as an apprentice, he wisely suggested:

“Community Safety is a collaborative effort that requires teamwork, empathy, a commitment to doing the best job possible and enthusiasm. If you have any interest in working with your community, public safety, or public service in general, then definitely consider this apprenticeship and the fantastic opportunity it provides to develop these skills.”

Here at SFJ Awards, we’re thrilled to share Stephen’s story and shine a light on the fantastic career opportunities to those through apprenticeships in the Fire & Rescue sector. We look forward to hearing what Stephen goes on to achieve next.

Linsey Daniels, Apprenticeship Coordinator at Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service commented on the programme of apprenticeships offered, providing excellent advice about how to get involved.

Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service recruit Apprentices on to the Operational Firefighter Apprenticeship through our whole time Firefighter recruitment. We recruit Apprentices to both the Community Safety Advisor and Operational Firefighter Apprenticeship through our Firefighter and Community Safety Apprenticeship Programme.

“We are extremely proud of our Apprentices. The roles that our Community Safety Apprentices were doing previously were changed to reflect restrictions. They all performed these new roles to the very highest standard possible and were also able to gain some important experience in the process.

“Being in the public sector is of course incredibly challenging. It is important that our Apprentices learn how to engage with the communities they serve, and to do this effectively and professionally. In the roles of Firefighter and Community Safety Advisor our Apprentices encounter individuals who require assistance, which for most of the time is during an emergency or at a time when individuals are much in need of support. These situations can be challenging, which is why personal resilience amongst our Apprentices is so important to deal with these experiences and perform effectively.”

Despite the challenges, we reflect on the enormous positivity and exciting experiences that apprentices will come across, and what matters most to Cheshire Fire & Rescue service. Linsey added:

“Our Apprenticeships provide the foundations to a Career within the Fire Service and the role of an Operational Firefighter. With the underpinning knowledge, skills and behaviours developed in their Apprenticeship individuals can go on to management roles within Operational Firefighting or specific roles within the Service, such as within Fire Prevention and Fire Protection, or Operational Training.”

Linsey’s best advice for someone considering the apprenticeship route:

“Have a desire to support and serve your community and look out for our Apprenticeship opportunities on our website.”

From everyone at SFJ Awards, thank you to Stephen and Linsey for getting involved in the Meet the Apprentice Champions campaign celebrating National Apprenticeship week 2021. As the leading Fire Sector Apprenticeship End-Point Assessment Organisation, we recognise the important of shining a light on the exciting careers possible through apprenticeships in Fire & Rescue. We are thrilled to share insights from those working hard to keep the public safe and grow the workforce of tomorrow.

Follow us for more National Apprenticeship week insights on Twitter @SFJAwards #NAW2021

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