Firefighter recruits ready to start duty after pandemic fails to halt training

The newest crop of firefighters is preparing for duty after completing their training during the coronavirus lockdown.

Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 6:00 am

More than 20 fresh recruits are preparing to formally ‘pass out’ on July 22 at the end of a course which started in April, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was starting to bite.

And fire chiefs in Tyne and Wear believe their programme may have been the only one in the UK to keep going throughout the outbreak.

“Recruitment is essential for the lifeblood of the brigade and making sure we can continue to make sure the operational frontline runs,” said Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s (TWFRS) assistant chief fire officer (ACFO) John Baines.

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“We know we have to balance that very carefully with finance.

“We thought we were coming to a position which stabilised us as we started to recruit more over the past two years.

“Clearly the financial impacts of coronavirus are still unknown and they pose a challenge going forward, but we’re working to make sure we can still bring recruitment forward.”

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Baines was speaking at a meeting of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority’s Human Resources Committee, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

In 2018 TWFRS, in a joint scheme with brigades in Northumberland and County Durham, launched its first recruitment drive in about a decade.

The conclusion of the most recent course is expected to mean about 60 firefighters have completed their training over three course in-takes since then.

And a new batch of up to 24 recruits is due to begin training in September.

John Rawling, the brigade’s HR director, told the committee there had been ‘a lot of interest nationally’ in the measures taken to keep training courses running during the pandemic.

He said: “The brigade training centre has continued to deliver all its risk critical training throughout the pandemic.

“As part of that we had already long planned a trainee firefighter initial training course started April 14 and we decided we could go ahead with that with a modified course.

“We believe we’re the only fire and rescue service in the country which went ahead with a firefighter training course.”

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