The under representation of women and minority groups within corporate America is mirrored within the fire service. While great strides are being made, continued and focused effort is required.
Against this backdrop, Firefighter’s ABCs formed the Firefighter Diversity Recruitment Council.
We firmly believe that full representation of all societal segments, within the fire service, can and will be achieved. However, solutions will require heavy doses of creativity, ingenuity, new strategic initiatives and, broad alliances to offset the many challenges that abound.
We all recognize that the desire to become a firefighter is typically incubated at a relatively early age, especially when a young person relates to the uniformed person as a role model. However, this is less prevalent among minorities and women who might harbor the attitude of “If I don’t see any that look like me, then it’s probably not meant to be.”
Added to this dilemma is the cost of Emergency Medical and other training requirements for prospects that typically come from lower income households. There is also the need to earn an income throughout the lengthy process of getting hired for one of the few available positions. Lastly, the education disparity is reflected in lower high school test scores.
These issues, among others, represent significant impediments among fire departments seeking ample numbers of diverse recruits for current openings. The situation can literally seem like finding “the needle in a haystack”. Added to this is the need to build a viable pipeline of qualified and motivated candidates for recruitment in future years.
We believe that by coupling the Firefighter Diversity Recruitment Council with the National Recruit Database, a strong foundation has been formed to successfully address the pressing requirement for fuller diversity within the fire service. This will be accomplished through the Council’s combination of “Best Practices”, collaboration and cooperative efforts among fire departments nation-wide.
Through hundreds of conversations with fire departments nation-wide, Firefighter’s ABCs has observed a host of non-optimal efforts that hinder the fulfillment of diversity recruitment goals. While some departments do a better job than others, our anecdotal evidence clearly indicates that most programs are not sustained over time and are not comprehensive or broad enough in scope. Provided below are a few of the “Areas for Improvement” that we see repeatedly:
Informal diversity initiatives versus written declarations with quantifiable recruitment goals.
The absence of diversity within a department’s long-term operational plan.
Diversity mandates not permeating every level of the organization via periodic communications.
Failure to establish a “Diversity Czar” with accountability for coordinating efforts and realizing quantifiable goals.
No working relationships with diversity based organizations.
Lack of community outreach, entry-level workshops, internships and other programs designed to fill the pipeline with future candidates.
A singular focus upon the ‘next’ recruitment event versus longer-term activities to sustain the pipeline.
‘Fishing’ only in the local pond versus expanding the traditional geographic area of recruitment.
If your department can relate to any of the above, membership in the Firefighter Diversity Recruitment Council will serve you well. Through vigorous collaboration with other departments, and greatly aided by the National Recruit Database of candidates, you will find solutions readily available.
A belief in the ‘Power of Numbers’ is why the Firefighter Diversity Recruitment Council was formed and was subsequently coupled with the Firefighter’s ABCs National Recruit Database. We also view collaboration among a nation-wide network of Council member fire departments as pivotal to optimizing and sharing best practices in the area of diversity recruitment. Key elements of our approach, and why they work, include:
Collaboration through the Council member’s chat room/forum to exchange ideas and experiences. Find out what works and what doesn’t. Don’t ‘reinvent the wheel’ and minimize duplicating errors already made by others.
Benefit from the collective experiences of fellow Council members and experts in the field of diversity recruitment through “How To” tips and articles published in the Council newsletter and on our web site.
Significantly broaden the awareness of promotional job openings, by posting opportunities directly to fellow Council members.
Entry-Level recruitment postings to reach the nation-wide subscriber audience of the National Recruit Database, thereby expanding the available pool of candidates for all Council members. This is of particular importance for fire departments for which a diversity of candidates is not clustered within their served community.
Fostering an “Across-the-Board” embrace of diversity initiatives through collaboration with local, regional, state and national entities, e.g., Chiefs Associations as well as ethnic and gender based organizations.
Fostering joint recruitment efforts among Council member departments to generate more effective and cost efficient outcomes while spreading the manpower load.
One day in 1969, a young man was hitch hiking his way to San Jose, California on Highway 280.
Irvin Roth, a Jewish Professor at Foothill Junior College, picked him up and asked two questions:
Where are you going?
Are you in school or working?
After hearing “NO” to the first two questions, Professor Roth asked a third question, “Would you like to join the fire service?”
Aimlessly going through life with no job, no place to call home and, absolutely no hope or thoughts of a career, the young man quickly answered, “Yes”. He simply figured that the fire service was better than nothing.
Dr. Roth immediately changed his route and took that young man back to the Foothill College campus, where he taught, and stopped at the Los Altos Fire Station. There, the young man was instructed to fill out an application to become a Student Firefighter. The pay rate was $25/Month, plus housing. The young man had never been in a fire station in his life and had never known a firefighter. This miraculous change of events was as overwhelming to him as it was unexpected.
Shortly thereafter this young man was offered an interview, then a position as a student firefighter. Later he became a summer relief firefighter and finally was offered a position as a full time firefighter with the Los Altos Fire Department.
The promise that he made to himself was to do just as Dr. Roth had done: To help young people in their pursuit of a career within the Fire Service, regardless of color, gender or background. After a successful 34-year career within the Fire Service, I am now able to vigorously pursue my two passions:
Providing future Firefighters with the preparedness, resources and motivation to become successful recruits.
Assisting Fire Departments in the realization of their diversity recruitment goals.
Miracles Do Occur, but they happen more often if you are mentally prepared to recognize them and you immediately seize the moment.
Preparation enables you to capitalize upon opportunities presented.
Going the Extra Mile allows you to reach your goals at a more rapid pace.
Awareness of Opportunities is the most critical step towards a successful career.
Now is the best time to join the National Recruit Database. Receive regular email alerts of upcoming firefighter recruitment notices. These will come directly from Fire Departments throughout the nation that are members of the Firefighter Diversity Recruitment Council. Also, get valuable tips and other resources that will help you on your way to becoming a successful recruit.
Firefighter’s ABCs wishes you the absolute best in your pursuit of a career within the Fire Service.
Contact us with a brief overview of your organization and how we might work together. All sponsorships will be reviewed on an individual bases.Contact Us