Ask any career firefighter that has been around any amount of time how difficult it was to actually be hired as a new firefighter “probie” or be moved from the ranks of volunteer to a career position.
Ask any career firefighter that has been around any amount of time how difficult it was to actually be hired as a new firefighter “probie” or be moved from the ranks of volunteer to a career position. I remember just ten years ago when this district was filling 9 new positions, we had a list of over 100 applications, not so today. (Let me clarify one thing, the word career is used to indicate, for this article only, a paid position. I understand and fully agree a volunteer can also be considered career.)
Jobs in the emergency services, both Police and Fire, were once considered to be a coveted position. In most of your larger communities if you were not a generational firefighter within that department you were not getting a job. Many would move to smaller communities simply for the chance to have a career in the fire service. Fire fighting has always been a steady job, fair compensation, benefits, and a schedule that allowed you plenty of time off.
Fast forward just ten years and ask any Fire or Police Chief what one of their biggest challenges are and you will most likely get the answer, recruitment. Several of the lake area departments belong to a hiring consortium, a group of 18 departments in Missouri and Kansas which tries to recruit and test interested applicants for openings we each have. The numbers of applicants to test continues to drop year after year and we struggle with bringing these numbers up. Some of the departments in the Springfield area are working with technical schools to offer the needed courses however the demand for additional recruits is still greatly needed.
I understand that the job is not for everyone, but I have to believe there are enough young men and women that would find this career both challenging and rewarding.
While we have been dealing with this for several years now some recent shows and articles really brought this to the forefront in my mind. A new show on A & E called Live Rescue follows fire departments throughout the country. St. Louis, one of several that will be on during the first season, hopes that this will help with recruitment of Paramedics. Last week in the St. Louis Post Dispatch there was an article where St. Louis County Police are looking at lowering their standards to try to recruit more applicants. I will say that while most across the country are having this issue, on local department has found a great fix within their ranks.
Mid County Fire developed a program that has been working for them, an Internship within the district. By offering applicants room, education needed to be hired by their district, and testing with consortium they have provided a good flow of qualified applicants, while in turn getting some volunteer help on shifts during their internship.
For the first time since last October Osage Beach is at full staffing levels, but we know at any time this could change.