For Ashley Roberts, Apprenticeship Manager with Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MFRS), working with apprentices is “a highly rewarding and fulfilling role”. She says: “We are a values-based organisation so recruit based on the qualities people bring to the organisation and the most rewarding part is seeing the difference our apprentices make in the communities we serve. Watching the apprentices grow from new fresh-faced civilians to fully competent firefighters or fire control operators is fantastic.”
Every year in England, around 300,000 people begin an apprenticeship, and around 80,000 do so within roles in the public service, health, or care sector. These programmes include those like the Operational Firefighter, the Emergency Contact Handler, and the Community Safety Standard apprenticeship offered by MFRS.
Each apprenticeship seeks to upskill apprentices across a range of knowledge, skills, and behaviours, and these vary depending on the apprenticeship programme being taken. Some apprenticeship programmes within the emergency services begin with classroom training before apprentices move out to work with their wider team in public-facing roles. This provides opportunities to learn some background knowledge and skills to build confidence before the role becomes more public-facing.
For MFRS, Ashley says “a key skill that apprentices bring with them and then enhance is the focus on their role within the wider community”. She goes on to add: “It is also really important to ensure apprentices are physically and mentally prepared for the challenges that are about to be presented. This is because our apprentices are a critical part of the emergency services and when it comes to mental and physical fitness, the programmes are like no other. We provide considerable support to ensure the standards are maintained.”
Apprenticeships within the Fire Service
Across England, apprenticeship programmes are available covering over 1,500 job roles. They involve considerable on-the-job training, meaning they typically prepare apprentices well for specific jobs or careers. Ashley says: “At Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, after successfully completing their apprenticeship programme, apprentices often continue in their role and sometimes look to progress throughout the organisation – we have multiple career options throughout the Service.”
As an indication, Operational Firefighter apprentices typically go on to become fully-qualified firefighters, earning an average salary of between £23,800 and £39,300 per year, with options for progression into crew manager, watch manager, station manager, and area manager roles.
For fully-qualified Contact Handlers, the starting salary is around £24,000 to £28,000 per year, often with an additional weekend working allowance, and, again, there are opportunities to progress, for example, to team leader roles.
Apprenticeships for Changing Careers
Nowadays, new apprentices come from all ages and backgrounds, and often people make use of the ‘earn-as-you-learn’ opportunity to switch career paths without prior experience in the area they are interested in moving into. Although it can even be possible to enrol on an apprenticeship programme without a prior English or maths qualification, Ashley does have one tip.
She said: “If you are able to, try to complete your Functional Skills or GCSE in English and maths before your apprenticeship so that you can fully focus on training for your new career path once you begin.”
For those who are interested in finding out more about apprenticeship opportunities, Ashley says: “We have many exciting apprenticeship opportunities each year, and all our apprentices lead fulfilling roles that make a real difference in their local communities. We recruit apprentices in the same way we recruit all our employees and the best place to find out more information is on our website www.merseyfire.gov.uk.” Last year, MFRS recruited more than 100 apprentices who were ready to learn new skills within a supportive, fast-paced, and established organisation with a wide selection of employee benefits and opportunities for career development.