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Aaron Collis

fire and leadership studies

My passion for a career in the Fire and Rescue Service has been evident from an early age and I was involved in fire cadets from the age of 13, progressing through the cadets to become cadet leader.

Having decided on my chosen career I was already looking to undertake the BSc (Hons) degree in Fire and Leadership Studies which is run by UCLan. In the year that I was looking to apply for the course, Cheshire Fire and Rescue (CFRS) launched their first High Potential Development Scheme, which for successful candidates meant sponsorship of the degree course and a job within the CFRS on successful completion of the degree.

The application process to the scheme required me to complete all of the National Firefighter Selection Tests in addition to a variety of other psychometric tests which were designed to identify candidate’s potential ability to progress into management positions within the Fire Service. Whilst the role is certainly not ‘desk bound’ there is a large amount of study expected of Firefighters particularly during the first few years of their career and if individuals want to apply for promotion.

Following successful completion of A-levels and success at the application process for the HPDS I was offered a place on the scheme starting in September 2009. As I was keen to develop a career in the Fire and Rescue Service whilst also wanting to continue with academic studies, the HPDS was the perfect combination whereby the service sponsored me to complete a full-time three year programme whilst also allowing me to commence part-time employment as an operational Firefighter within the on-call system at CFRS.

During my University study I also completed two ten-week block work placements in the summer of 2010 and 2011 which were based in departments within CFRS.

Following successful completion of the degree I was offered a full-time position as a Firefighter. In my full-time job I work as a ‘Wholetime’ Firefighter, working day and night shifts at a Fire Station and then also work as an on-call FF, whereby I provide cover from home on my days off, being alerted for fire calls by a pager as required.

The role of a Firefighter is a hugely dynamic one which requires adaptation to work in a variety of different settings. The range of emergency incidents which a Firefighter attends varies hugely and includes property fires, road traffic collisions, chemical incidents and animal rescues to name just a few. In order to successfully deal with this range of situations Firefighters must be able to remain calm and focused in often demanding and sometimes distressing circumstances, and have the ability to constantly assess the risk to both themselves and other colleagues. A large proportion of a Firefighter’s time is spent training with equipment and studying operational procedures to ensure that we are competent to deal with any situation which may arise.

Whilst operational response is an important element of a Firefighters role, there are many more responsibilities which we undertake on a day to day basis. Firefighters undertake pro-active work within the community in order to reduce the number of incidents which occur. This includes visiting the homes of vulnerable members of the community to ensure they have working smoke alarms and delivering educational sessions at schools and colleges. For these tasks Firefighters must have a confident and outgoing approach and be prepared to present and deliver information to large groups of people.

Being on the High Potential Development Scheme means that whilst I have begun my career at Firefighter level, I will be expected to progress into a management role via a fast track route which I will be assisted in by a structured career development plan. The knowledge and skills which I have gained during my time at university will hopefully assist me in achieving my goals and have already given me an in-depth understanding of the organisation from a strategic viewpoint. The placements I completed in different departments at our Headquarters also enhanced my understanding of the whole organisation and assisting in developing my skills for future promotion opportunities.