Practical Support for the Changing World at Work 
Linda F. Willing
P.O. Box 148
Grand Lake, CO
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Rethinking Recruitment

In November 2012, over fifty fire service professionals spent a day talking about issues related to women and diversity generally in the fire service. The workshop "An Open Conversation: Women Firefighters and Their Chiefs" generated many ideas and insights on issues related to recruitment, retention, promotion, pregnancy, and workplace environment. Here are some of the ideas that were developed related to improving recruitment efforts.

First, participants talked about current practices they used that were working well. These included:

  • Using social media
  • Participating in statewide academies
  • Developing an interactive fire department website
  • Creating a department challenge coin
  • Creating a rewards system for those who assist with successful recruitment efforts
  • Recruiting at athletic events
  • Using the police department as a resource (many women who become successful firefighters first consider a career in law enforcement)
  • Boundary spanning generally-- forming relationships with other departments, agencies, and organizations to get the message out about the opportunities in a fire service career

Next, participants brainstormed a "wish list"-- things that were not currently being done, but which would be beneficial if time, money, personnel and other resources could be found to support them:

  • Develop a cadet program, beyond just current Explorer programs
  • Make recruitment efforts statewide, not just department specific. Fire camps for girls could be a state supported program, for example.
  • Create interagency teams to address recruitment
  • Consider an image makeover for the fire department, using social media and other venues to get across what being a firefighter is really like
  • Create fire service specific athletic events, such as stair climbs or other competitions that would attract media attention
  • Develop onsite childcare for public safety workers
  • Create a statewide CPAT facility so individual departments can pool resources
  • Create a statewide CPAT preparation course
  • Do an honest evaluation of current fire department culture
  • Schedule at least two hours every year with every high school counselor to promote careers in public safety
  • Form relationships with the military
  • Provide relocation bonuses for firefighters from other geographical areas to laterally transfer
  • Create and improve boundary spanning relationships with a variety of other organizations (police, military, trades, college programs including athletics, etc.)

It was pointed out that everything on the "wish list" was completely doable, perhaps in partnership with other departments or agencies. Participants were encouraged to set clear goals for their own departments to improve recruitment efforts over the next 6-12 months.


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