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Training is fundamental in the fire service, which distinguishes it from many other professional pursuits. But when a university offers prospective students college credit for courses that were taught in a vocational atmosphere, the equation may not work. Not to minimize what is commonly called articulation, but careful scrutiny must be used to ensure a course in building construction for the fire service from a local vo-tech is equal in design and rigor to the same course at a community college. Often, they are not. I have sat through two days of rapid-fire lecture at a privately run training academy and received a certificate for little effort that some universities would see as three college credits.
Managing the process
to ensure qualifications
The fire service educator Dr. Barb Klingensmith makes a solid case for how to proceed with accepting certificates for college credits.
“I think the process of articulating state certifications, as opposed to individual course credit from either adult technical centers or approved training centers, has great potential to be a process for students to gain college credit,” Klingensmith said. “However, it is a process that needs to be carefully managed to ensure students complete the college-required general education credits and other degree requirements, before granting the articulated credits. Consideration needs to be given to the qualifications of the instructors and the accreditation requirements of the institution. A professional development matrix, such as the one developed by FESHE project, is useful in evaluating curriculum and doing a crosswalk from training or vocational student learning outcomes to higher education requirements.”
As one fire science college professor points out, “I wouldn’t want a Harvard graduate on my fireground, nor would I want a rookie firefighter doing my department’s budget.” The division remains between education and training. We need to make sure to understand what constitutes each to keep from diluting their critical attributes – regardless of the market-driven forces in place. n