1. #1
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    Default A Retention Period for after Training

    Not sure this is where this thread should be...but here it is.
    We are having a problem with retention of new hires. We have a population of approx. 2300, our call volume is approx. 400 calls per year, 85% being thdical, hardly no employment in town. We are looking at obtaining some type of required contract which new hires must stay on the department for "X" amount of time after they have completed our Paid training requirements... (we are paying for training for new people only to have them leave three for four months after the training is completed.) Anyone else using a contract to keep their new members on for a certain length of time after training?? Will such a contract hold up in court? Any thoughts or sample contracts would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks, David

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    Default training

    i know that in Wisconsin at a department you cant have them sing something like that to make them stay x amount of years but you can make them sing one that says that they have to stay so long or they have to pay back the amount in full

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    Cool

    I do not know of any FD's that have those contracts, I'm sure they exist. There are many corporations that do this, even the military does it, so I see no reason it wouldn't hold up in court. If I were in your position I'd have a lawyer look over the contract before you use it just to make sure.

    So does this mean you have openings?

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    Default

    Thanks to those who responded....
    We are a volunteer department and YES, we have openings!!!
    doesn't everyone?

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    Default

    I'm not sure a contract is the way to go. I'd be a little hesitant to sign a legally binding contact as a volunteer firefighter. I think you'll see a dramatic reduction in recruitment and retention when you go to invoke the contract. You may be better served trying to figure out why people are leaving so soon after joining your department. Is it a community-thing (relocation for work, loss of job..etc), a cultural thing (not feeling "included" in the FD)? If your recruitment is a revolving door you need to fix that. Even if a contract forces them to stay you're going to have morale problems.

    I think most volunteer departments face the situation where some recruits leave or loose interest soon after joining (usually when they're starting, or finishing basic training). Sometimes its not a good fit, not what they expected..etc. Sometimes they get to their first live burn in FF1 and go "WTF am I doing?".. better to find out at the academy then later on.
    We recruit a lot at the local high school for our junior program. Ages 16-18. Because of the demographic this program is a rotating door.. a lot of the kids move away once they graduate.. usually this corresponds with just after they've gone to FF1 as well. Are we wasting money sending them to training, maybe... but not all leave, some stick around for years. others move away and come back.. some we never see again. This is slightly offset by juniors from other towns finding jobs in our area and joining. I don't think in either case that a contract will help things. Maybe I don't understand your situation.
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    Default

    Well, my first response was that yes, an agreement can be made that they must stay with the department for so long after training. My employeer requires 3 years for every year of long term training.

    After reading that this is a volunteer department, my opinon changes. Voyager seems to be right on target. People leave the department for all sorts of reasons. They may find out it's not right for them, get other priorities on life (wife, kids, college), or go the other direction and get burned out.

    You need to find out if they are moving to departments with more calls, using the training to get hired somewhere else, or just getting bored and moving on. Also, what age are the people leaving? That may tell you what is going on. An "exit interview" may be a good idea when somebody resigns in order to figure out what needs fixing.

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    Default

    Many grants that I have dealt with will not allow you to get the money to pay or training unless a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) has been completed for the persons that the money is to be used for. I have currently put in a grant for EMT-B, FF1, and Paramedic training for our firemen/EMS personel. Each one of those attendees will be signing a MoU stating that they will work for the department for x number of months after the completion of training or will have to pay the money back. This was required by the granting agency and we were looking for a way to implement a system to stop our county from becoming a training base anyway. Meaning that people come, get trained, then roll out for a paid or higher paying job somewhere, and i think that this is going to help. Our MoU will be for 1 year for all of the trainings except for the Paramedic training which will be longer to offset the cost difference.
    Chautauqua County Emergency Manager
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    Default

    A little bit more info for those following this thread....
    We are a volunteer fire department, currently have 15 members, (generally have 20 for full staff) 15 for the last year. We have really only one major employer in town, Yoplait yogurt, which employees approx 350 people, none of which are members of our department. As I stated earlier, We run approx. 400 calls per year, 85% plus are medical calls, we are the busiest department of the seven departments in the county. Our population is approx. 2300, we cover 90 square miles. We just currently started a Jr. Firefighter program and have only 3 Jr's at this time, one age 13 and two age 16. I'm sure our problem is employment in the area. Our neighboring departments are even smaller departments without employers and they also have problems with staffing, some departments don't even have daytime staffing available....some depts. having unanswered calls.
    I like the exit interview idea...that is a great idea and that may help us find our answers.

    ChautauquaEM, if you have a copy of that MoU and wouldn't mind sharing, I would appreciate it...

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    I would like to get a copy of an exit interview geared toward the fire service if there is one available. I worked for a company a few years ago that did one, and it explained a lot about the turnover problem they were having, and probably saved them a few lawsuits from the female employees who were being harassed. Any help would greatly be appreciated.

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    Quote Originally Posted by accesslocks View Post
    A little bit more info for those following this thread....
    We are a volunteer fire department, currently have 15 members ... Our population is approx. 2300, we cover 90 square miles.
    Wow, now I don't feel so bad... we have 800 people and appx 25 members of the dept...

    However, we have the exact same issues as you it seems... we bring people on board, get them trained, and out the door they go.

    Most of our issues come from people not knowing the level of commitment that our area requires. Being a small town, we still see the people around, and a few of them never really quit... they just only show up to a meeting once or twice a year.

    We also see the issue of them using the volunteer dept and our training as a 'resume builder' mostly but not limited to the nearby air force base. Evidently service and training on a volly FD helps with those stripes

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    I have been at this a while in a number of states in surburban, surburban/rural and rural departments. It's been my observation that this is usually the way things go ...

    20% leave in less within 3 months.
    Another 50% leave within 3 months to a year.
    20% leave between 1 year to 2 years.
    You retain 10% affter 2 years.

    This is average .. a more stable community may lose fewer and a very transient community may lose more.

    IT'S JUST THE WAY OUR SOCIETY IS.

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    Our city is very similar to yours. About 4,000 people we run about 450 calls a year 1/3 is medical (this year if we keep up the pace we're running over 600 with 50% medical). It's a bedroom community with most people working out of town.

    We have a paid staff of two 24/7 to cover medical calls and be first on scene on other calls. We have about 15 volunteers on our roster but only about a third of them are truly active.

    I think LaFireEducator hit the nail on the head. There is not much you can do about retention. We have the exact same problem with people quitting in about the same ratios he described. I don't know if there is much you can do about it.

    Before, we used to hire anyone on as soon as they walked through the door. Now they have to make 3 meetings before the rest of the membership votes on them and they have to go through 70 hours of training in the first 3 months. This is quite a big commitment to start and it makes people drop out or change their minds even sooner.

    Add to this the fact that we're a combination department with 2 paid guys who get to roll on everything leaving the volunteers standing-by at the station for a lot of calls and you can see how a newcomer would be easily discouraged/disappointed early on.

    As for making people sign contracts for retention, I really don't think you would want people on he department just because they signed a contract. You would want them on the department because they want to be on the department.

    If you guys invest a lot of money in your new guys early on it might be prudent to guarantee your return on investment by making them sign a contract, the only question is how difficult will be to enforce the contract in the future or how much you want to spend on litigation to get your investment back from someone who fails to hold up their end of the bargain.

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    Default

    Since we weeded out most of the deadwood, our all-vounteer department fluxuates between 15 and 20 members.

    When we send someone to department-paid training, they are required to sign an MOU that they must remain active, make trainings, get their duty hours in, etc, for one year following the training. If they leave the department prior to that, they are required to repay a pro-rated portion of the cost of the training (ie 1/12 of the cost per month).
    The exception to that is a volunteer who has been active for a year or more, in which case we generally consider "time served" in the equation.

    It's not a great system, but at least it conveys to them the comitment that we expect.

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    Our department has paid for our First Responder certifications. We started with 10 people in the class, 7 of us finished it, 3 of us passed national registry and 2 of us are still serving on the department. We were all required to sign forms that stated if we drop out or fail to obtain certification or quit the department within 6 months of training we'd owe the entire amount of training to the department.

    In the end no one paid for their training whether they failed or quit. I don't think that a volunteer fire department would go after individuals for the $200 it cost per person.

    The only thing I'm disappointed is that from the money it cost to train 10 of us as first responders the two of us who still respond could have gotten an EMT-basic certification instead.
    www.firefighter-blog.com - The stories and rants of a volunteer firefighter

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