Supporting industry-leading Fire Service training to meet the changing skills’ needs of the sector

Dr Katherine Lamb, Owner and Director of K Lamb Associates has an unusual background which led her to setup the training company, having worked in or with the fire sector for over 18 years.

Katherine has a unique insight into training provision, from the world of academia as a research scientist. She deeply values the benefit of recognised assessment processes, and the importance of standardising training for the sector.

“We are a training provider within the fire service sector, focusing mostly on Incident Command qualifications, accredited by SFJ Awards. After I left academia, I joined the fire service in 2004 and ended up in the training domain. My academic experiences highlighted the importance of data-led assessment processes, and the need for data to inform future training requirements. My worlds as an academic, working in the fire service and in training collided.”

Katherine’s experience and interests provided her with a unique opportunity to support the fire and rescue sector by working collaboratively with employers to provide robust assessment-led training programmes.

“We were initially providing bespoke training, and one of our clients approached us to request we deliver SFJ Awards qualifications. To begin with, we did this through the employer (they were an SFJ Awards Approved centre already). However, this added some complexity, and it was initially a bit daunting to become an SFJ Awards centre ourselves. We finally did this in 2018 and it provided us with more control, making it much easier to deliver any of SFJ Awards’ qualifications.”

Based on client-demand, K Lamb Associates began including a range of SFJ Awards qualifications in their portfolio.

“SFJ Awards is the sole awarding body for the sector. You are the obvious choice to apply to become a centre.”

“We initially introduced the five Incident Command qualifications from SFJ Awards which supported our existing portfolio. Over that time, the demand on the Fire Service changed significantly. Interest grew for the SFJ Awards certified qualifications from our clients, due to increased skills’ needs for fire service staff to meet more rigorous standards from recent Government Audit processes.”

“Having competent and qualified Incident Commanders, trained to a high level has become increasingly important and services are now measured against this need.”

Fire and Rescue services can access several courses through a small number of approved training providers in the UK, and some employers maintain their competence internally. However, training provision has changed a lot in recent years, and the number of candidate learners can be very small for an employer to deliver in-house.

Working with a trusted training provider like K Lamb Associates, provides services with more flexible and cost-effective access to training and qualifications, to maintain competency of Incident Commanders and other roles.

“All officers need to be assessed every two years to maintain their level of competence. We do all the development, training and certification for learners which encompasses SFJ Awards qualifications. We predominantly deliver Incident Commend Qualifications and Incident Command Training for Fire Officers who make risk critical decisions at incidents. We’ve been doing that since 2015 and we’ve grown exponentially over the last few years, which is great. There are four different command levels, so our training courses for each of these levels get more complex depending on how high up the organisational hierarchy individuals go.”

The Government Audit processed by the HMI CFRS commenced around a similar period when K Lamb become an approved centre.

“This transition has happened over the last few years, meaning there has been a lot of change within FRS’ training departments. It’s difficult for fire and rescue services to maintain the level of IQA assessor competence to justify an administration by having their own Assessment Centre for very small candidate numbers. That has caused the sector to transition from maintaining their own centre, to outsource that requirement.

“Qualifications are not a complete development pathway, but we can tailor our training to meet each FRS’ needs to learning and development routes. A lot of individuals are looking for a journey from point A to point B, which will include an SFJ Awards qualification on that journey, coupling it with bespoke training that’s tailored to organisational needs, the qualification provides a more complete package.

“Prior to being an SFJ Awards centre, we were delivering the same course sometimes with multiple external quality assurance (EQA) assessors involved. We had the challenge that there were discrepancies between external quality assurance, when dealing with multiple EQA processes from different centres.

“We discussed this with SFJ Awards to help raise these issues and try to standardise things so that the same level of evidence would be appropriate for learners. We had quite a unique perspective to provide feedback. During lockdown the EQA process was very quick and straightforward, which made the QA process seamless without interruption.”

What do learners have to say about working with K Lamb Associates?

“I would like to thank Dr Katherine Lamb and K Lamb Associates for the services provided on the provision of the SFJ L7 Strategic Incident Command course.  The professionalism, proficiency and quality-oriented training provision focused on Strategic Incident Command and decision making, was second to none.”

K Lamb continue to work closely with the team at SFJ Awards and have recently joined the Centre Directory to showcase the available training for learners.

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