I have been in the fire service for the past 28 years. I have been involved in the hiring process dating back to when I had just four years on the job when I sat on my first entry level interview panel. Today I am very involved in the final selection (Chief Interviews). I have seen the highs and more recently the lows when it comes to the hiring process.
I personally believe that 21013 will see a significant increase in the amount of hiring of entry-level firefighters. Yes, itís true that most of us have reduced our staffing levels. These cuts have hit large and small departments alike. Some have been more severely impacted than others.
Hiring in the fire service is directly tied to the economy. When the economy struggles so too do local municipalities. As a general rule, every municipality spends 60 Ė 70% of their total budget on public safety (Police and Fire). For the record, police budgets are usually much higher than fire budgets.
While the local economies are getting a little better (depending on the region of the country), I donít see the increase in hiring tied to a stronger economy. What I am seeing and hearing through my peers is that all of us have delayed hiring for the past 2 -3 years. Additionally, our senior firefighters have held on for several years longer than they had planned. Firefighters (particularly older ones) have a very good retirement. They have earned a percentage of their salary for the rest of their lives. In essence, many senior firefighters will not take much of a pay cut when they retire. They will, however, not be able to work overtime and they will have to pick up their healthcare expenses.
Cities (particularly in California) have reformed pensions. This means that the new group of firefighters hired today will have a different pension formula that the rest of us. For the record, it is comparable to what it was when I got hired 28 years ago. It is still 100% better than any other City worker and certainly better those most private industry employees. I believe itís important to keep in mind that if you are drawn to this business for the pay and benefits, I encourage you to look elsewhere. While the pay and benefit packages are really good, if you want to make big bucks, go to private industry.
As I am currently involved in the hiring process I am seeing a trend of people who have been testing for a while. This is not a badge of honor. I would NOT encourage you to tell the interviewers you have been testing for a large number of years. My peers and interpret this as a sign that there is some reason as to why. Yes, I understand that hiring has been slow. Having said this, there have been plenty of firefighter jobs awarded in the last several years (just not to you). You do not want us trying to figure out why you havenít been hired.
I have seen in my private coaching people who have lost momentum in the pursuit of a career. By this I am referring to people who have quit their ambulance or reserve job and are now chasing the dollar. I understand that the number one objective is to support your family, but I want you to understand how damaging this is to your profile. Ideally we see a candidate who has has a steady increase in his skill level and experience. If you have graduated from an academy it is imperative that you are working as a reserve of volunteer firefighter. This allows you to maintain your basic skills. If you are an EMT, we expect you to be working as an EMT preferably on an ambulance running first in 911 calls. A distant second place would be working in an emergency room as an EMT. Before you debate the significance of working as an EMT in an ER, let me tell you that this is what I did prior to getting hired in the fire service. I can tell you that I believe the experience gained in the field as an EMT is more closely related to being a firefighter than is the EMT experience gained in an air conditioned, controlled setting in the ER (just my opinion).
Lastly, if you are a Paramedic, you must be working as a paramedic in a busy 911 system. Working as an EMT with a paramedic license makes people wonder about your self confidence level as a paramedic. I have heard the argument that you are on the calls working side by side with the paramedics. While this may be true, I will tell you that the water boy attends all of the practices and he even has his own locked in the locker room. He travels with the team too. This does not mean that I want him as my starting quarterback.
All of the aforementioned recommendations are so that you can be viewed as a top tier candidate. I like to refer to this group as the ďplug and playĒ candidates. You have a great deal of related education, experience, and training. We can put you through some type of training and turn you loose. The more you bring to the table the greater the chances of success in our initial training period and ultimately on probation. Additionally, the more knowledge, skills and abilities that you bring to the table, the shorter we can make the training period. This allows us to pay less time to the training staff and begin to plug up the holes on our department that we are currently paying time and one half to fill. Hiring a new firefighter at the bottom of the pay scale (one with lower retirement benefits) is a significant savings to our budget. In these tough economic times, we are all looking for creative ways to save money.
In closing, I have already seen a significant increase in the amount of entry level testing. Make sure you do not let up on the gas. Now is the time to reenergize your batteries, put your head down and to get serious.
Best of luck to you in 2013!
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Thread: Hiring forecast for 2013
01-13-2013, 10:51 PM #1
- Join Date
- Mar 2003
Hiring forecast for 2013Paul Lepore
01-14-2013, 04:15 PM #2
- Join Date
- Apr 2012
This segment here I have to admit sounds like me. With one little twist. I was on a paid department that consolidated with another and found myself along with 2 others losing our positions. Since that time I have had to find work in an ER and private ambulance while applying for departments. My wife and kids are very supportive of me and my pursuits to be on a full time dept again. I have been away from the fire service for about 4 years now and have since gone back to school to finish my bachelors.
Some area Vol/POC and part time depts hire in my area sporadically but supporting a family of 5 is hard enough with my fulltime hosp job let alone trying to fit in a vol/poc position like you suggested here.
Also in Nov 2012 I resigned from duty (7 years) with the private ambulance because of school and work. The choice to resign was out of respect to the company. I still have an open door policy with the GM and owner to come back any time. However I am hesitant to make that commitment again only to be unavailable to them again.
So If I may. How can I market my self this spring with a dept I know is going to open up its process?
If my current life situation doesn't have a huge opening for those type of commitments (Pvt Ambo and Vol/POC/PT Fire Dept) at the present time.
Any advise you can give would be great.
01-15-2013, 10:38 AM #3
- Join Date
- Mar 2003
You have aske some great, real life questions. First and foremost most of us agree that a laid off firefighter gets a seat at the table. In other words, you get a ticket to the dance (the interview) simply because you were laid off. In fact, some states even have a reistry for laid off firefighters and, if I am not mistaken, give financial incentives to departments that hire firefighters who have been laid off.
In your case you have made the best out of a bad situation by returning to school. Four years, hoever, is a very long time to be out of the business. My concern would be for your level of fitness as well as your ability to throw a ladder and pull hose. Ladder commands and fireground sense erode after time. Working as a volunteer or reserve firefighter makes this less of an issue.
Working in an ER certainly does help to maintain your skills. You stated that you have done this in the past but I am not sure if you still do this?
In closing, the most important thing in your life is NOT getting hired on the fire department again. It is to be a good husband and father. I can see in your post that these two things are very important to you.
If you are no longer working n the ER or on the ambulance, doing something to keep our hand in the busines is important. I suspect the ambulance company would love a part time guy who would be willing to work on weekendsr holidays just a thought.
Best of luck to you!Paul Lepore
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