Career Kick Start
By Jayson Koblun
Becoming a career firefighter can seem like a daunting task for some when you consider the schooling, training, volunteer hours, reference checks and more that many chiefs take into consideration during the hiring process.
That’s why Fire Fighting in Canada, along with Blue Line and Canadian Security magazines partnered to present the first combined Security, Police, Fire Career Expo to help potential security professionals, law enforcement officers and firefighters get their foot in the door.
The event, held March 7 at the International Centre in Mississauga, Ont., drew 140 attendees from nearby colleges and universities and visitors met with more than 25 booth vendors and more than 25 industry mentors on hand to offer career advice.
Mentors on the fire side were: Richard Boyes, executive director of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs and Helaina Mulville, administrative support co-ordinator at Ontario Fire Administration Inc.; David Cunliffe, fire chief of the Hamilton Fire Department; Dave Pratt, fire chief of the Milton Fire Department; Damond Jamieson, deputy fire chief of the Cambridge Fire Department; Vannetta Tustian, a Toronto firefighter and director of professional development and student recruitment for Fire Service Women Ontario (FSWO), and volunteer firefighter Taylor Wardaugh; Chad Roberts, acting captain at the Oakville Fire Department and member of the extrication team; and Kory Pearn, firefighter with the City of St. Thomas and author of The Complete Guide to Becoming a Firefighter.
The mentors were grilled on several aspects of the fire service by students seeking a career, from peak-hiring times to resume-building skills, NFPA requirements and more.
“It’s been an interesting day,” said Jamieson, who grilled some of the prospective students just as hard as they grilled him. “Lots of people asking some great questions and really wanting to know more about how to get in the fire service. I wanted more. It’s great to see people wanting to learn what it takes to become a part of the team and I had a great time answering all their questions.”
Visitors varied from recent college graduates, those seeking a career change, soon-to-graduate high school students and others. One visitor had already finished her firefighter schooling from an Ontario college. She participated in her very first real-life firefighter interview the day before the Career Expo, saying it was just as stressful and nerve-wracking as she imagined, but was hopeful to be hired. She said she felt well-prepared having spent lots of time researching how to present herself at a firefighter interview.
Roberts, another mentor, said before the event started that he had never been a mentor at this capacity before and was looking forward to any questions that may come his way. He’s a member of the extrication team at the Oakville Fire Department and was able to answer any question thrown his way, especially those relating to that subject.
“I was really looking forward to being a part of the event,” said Roberts. “I’ve never done something quite like this before and I’d like to help potential firefighters out any way that I can.”
Tustian was present as a mentor while also representing FSWO. She shared her experience in recruiting and mentoring volunteer firefighters over the years.
“Before deciding to embark on your journey of becoming a volunteer or career firefighter it’s important to ask yourself if you can actually do it,” she said. “There are so many factors to consider; do you have 20/20 vision, can you handle small spaces, can you afford the schooling, are you willing to put your life at risk and answer the call? There’s a lot to decide before you begin and this expo is what it’s all about.”
Keynote speaker Carmela Demkiw, senior director, corporate security services, Rogers Communications, spoke about her career in policing with the Toronto Police Service and her transition to private security in 2002. Demkiw gave advice on the role of business skills in security, integrating data and analytics into security programs to deliver value, the importance of following through with responsibilities and other takeaways that attendees can integrate into their work lives.
Fire Fighting in Canada would like to thank all of the event sponsors, attendees for sharing their day with us and mentors for generously giving their time. Special thanks to lunch sponsor G4S Canada and keynote sponsor testreadypro.com.