The national effort to prevent fires, improve fire safety awareness and react to emergencies is still a very real and challenging one for the UK’s Fire and Rescue Services (FRS).
Whilst some regional FRS’ have a wealth of staffing available to them, many in remote locations, covering large populations, and sometimes incidents that can ravage miles of the natural landscape, often rely on a workforce of On-Call Firefighters.
Many On-Call Firefighters have alternative employment and fit their time as firefighters around these other commitments. Without people in On-Call roles, however, many Fire Services would struggle to face the real and dangerous challenges, particularly large-scale incidents.
The Education Skills Funding Agency met with Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service and the National Fire Chiefs Council representatives and confirmed the Level 3 Operational Firefighter Standard was accessible for On-Call Firefighters and could now participate in the apprenticeship, following a pilot with Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service.
Previously, On-Call Firefighters were not able to undertake the Level 3 Apprenticeship standard in England, with a limit on the number of hours worked, and the capacity to undertake the apprenticeship in a part-time On-Call position.
The standard typically takes 24-months to complete and requires level 2 English and Maths for entry. The length of time for the apprenticeship and the hours required to complete it hindered those in On-Call positions, working under the number of recommended hours to complete training, leaving some FRS’ with unspent Apprenticeship levy funding, and potentially under-utilised capacity to deliver apprenticeships.
The Department for Education approved the use of apprenticeships for training On-Call Firefighters and confirmed that funds from levy contributions could now fund training costs.
Now, the first cohort in England is due to complete the apprenticeship, with End-Point Assessment quickly approaching.
As the leading Level 3 Operational Firefighter End-Point Assessment Organisation, we’re delighted that this adaptation has allowed even more individuals to undertake the apprenticeship and supports the ongoing learning and development of those dedicated to working in the Fire and Rescue sector.
For many of the smaller, and remote Fire and Rescue Services in England, with On-Call Firefighters, the ability to use Levy funding, as agreed by the Education and Skills Funding Agency provides a welcome lifeline to train the future workforce, whilst still providing the flexibility for individuals with other commitments and part-time jobs.
Kit Salt, End-Point Assessment Service Manager at SFJ Awards added:
“It’s incredible to see the pilot of the Devon and Somerset first On-Call Firefighters undertake the important Level 3 Operational Firefighter Apprenticeship. I hope the greater awareness about this route to a career in the Fire Service will encourage more people to consider part-time On-Call roles with their local Fire and Rescue Service, as well as demonstrate to employers the great opportunities to develop their workforce through the level 3 apprenticeship and utilise under-spent levy funding. At SFJ Awards, we pride ourselves on the quality and impartiality of End-Point Assessment to ensure all apprentices, no matter what their journey has been, have a fair and robust assessment of their skills, knowledge and behaviours before qualifying as an Operational Firefighter.”
Furthermore, an On-Call Firefighter can now receive the benefits of ‘earn while you learn’ apprenticeship training, like their peers in full-time positions, and we believe this will lead to a highly committed and engaged workforce for the future, opening opportunities for those looking for long-term careers in the Fire and Rescue sector.
From 1st – 7th March is the national On-Call Firefighters week, with a dedicated recruitment campaign endorsed by the National Fire Chiefs Council. You can find more information and resources here.
If you’re currently managing On-Call Firefighters undertaking the Level 3 Operational Firefighter Apprenticeship or are considering taking a cohort of Apprentices through the programme who are currently in On-Call roles, get in touch to discuss how we can support you through End-Point Assessment.