Joseph Smith has used the work-based learning opportunities offered by his Business Fire Safety Apprenticeship (Level 3) to begin a career change. Previously a mechanical testing engineer, Joseph applied for a position at County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service where an apprenticeship was part of the training process. In 2019-20, 322,500 people joined an apprenticeship programme in England from a wide variety of backgrounds; some straight from school or college, and some, like Joseph, who take advantage of a paid training opportunity to gain a new qualification and switch career paths.
As part of their apprenticeship training programme, Apprentice Firefighters gain experience tackling a wide range of emergency situations, such as fires and searching, rescuing, and protecting people and animals. They also advise on fire prevention with members of the public, including school pupils and those deemed to be at greater risk. For Joseph, this has been one of the best bits – “The best part of my training so far has been getting out in the community, visiting businesses and building good working relationships with the people in the community”.
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Joseph is still in training but so far he says, “I have been enjoying learning how to operate the appliance pumps, how to correctly pitch ladders, the range of legislation covering business fire safety and how to carry out audits, how to conduct safety and well-being visits around the community and how to target reducing arson in the county”. The training offered to Apprentice Firefighters is hugely varied and Joseph says, “I recognise I have a lot more to learn when it comes to risk critical operational training, such as road traffic collisions, breathing apparatus, and water rescue, but I am very much looking forward to developing my skills in these important areas that help keep the public in my local area safe. There are lots of resources to help with training, and my tutor has been amazing at providing guidance and being supportive.”
As for any public-service career in an intensive sector, training to be a firefighter is not without its challenges. For Joseph, the hardest part has been the physicality of the job. However, he has enjoyed this challenge and it has been rewarding to see improvements – “Pushing my fitness up is taxing but I have been making improvements, and, as my training goes on, I can feel this more and more. Despite this being one of the hardest parts so far, I have really enjoyed the physical training and finding myself in positions I never thought I would be in!”
Preparing for End-Point Assessment
To mark the end of his apprenticeship, Joseph will complete an End-Point Assessment. This typically involves a multiple-choice knowledge test, a day-long practical observation on the job, and an hour-long professional discussion, which will give Joseph the chance to speak professionally about all the new things he has learned. Speaking about the assessment Joseph says, “the apprenticeship training will prepare me well. Although I will definitely read over my notes, I won’t just be practising on mock situations, I will have gained confidence working in real-life situations too”. SFJ Awards is also on hand to guide employers in preparing their apprentices for their End-Point Assessment.
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Overall, for Joseph, the best part of his apprenticeship experience so far has been meeting new people and working with his new colleagues – “Working with my team is brilliant, each one of has been very open and friendly. In this career, you will always be meeting a lot of new people, which is something I really appreciate about this job. I feel proud to work for the Fire Service and I can’t wait to get more involved in contributing to an already fantastic service!”