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From the editor: Back to (fire) school

For many, September is the start of the new year – everyone’s enthusiastic about learning, and all the distractions of our oh-so-short summers are gone.

August 24, 2017 
By Laura King

Each September we host a career expo to help aspiring firefighters understand the often complex journey to becoming a recruit.

For our Sept. 30 expo at the Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute in Toronto, we’ve shaken up things: more speakers; and streams for participants – considering becoming a firefighter, in training, or embarking on the job search.

A key consideration in our agenda planning was continuing education, and ensuring that potential firefighter candidates understand that getting hired is the beginning of a learning curve that ends only when their careers wrap up, in 30 years.

Leadership Forum columnist and PhD candidate Bill Boyes is a proponent of continuing education, and, as he explains on page 42,  a new program at Humber College that has been built by fire-service leaders in conjunction with the academics, takes into consideration previous learning credits.


Further, on page 44, Surrey Chief Len Garis – a longtime proponent of evidence-based decision making – details an online program at the University of the Fraser Valley; the course helps officers ensure their actions stand up to scrutiny.

“Evidence-based decision making has grown increasingly important . . . ,” Garis says , “as governments at all levels face shrinking budgets, a growing demand for both efficiency and accountability, and the effects of unstable and changing global economic and security conditions.”

Councils – and taxpayers – want to know why departments need money for a second set of bunker gear or why it makes sense to hire more public education staff. Having the data to back up financial requests is logical; understanding how to gather and use the data is critical.

Although the Humber program requires classroom attendance in Ontario, the certificate can be achieved over time and is manageable for those out of province.

Certainly, this is not meant to be an ad for the courses, rather a nudge that, as a chief officer – or aspiring chief officer – it’s advisable that as many tools as possible are at your disposal to support your decisions, particularly those that involve finances.

When I graduated in journalism (a long time ago!) I swore I’d never go back to school. Formally, I haven’t. But in the ten years I’ve been editor, I’ve earned certificates in fire-service courses and programs, trained extensively, compiled myriad presentations, audited classes, and soaked up truckloads of information that has bettered our publications and our online products. The pieces of paper – the certificates – provide credibility, so readers know I’ve been there and done that.

Your councils, and your taxpayers, need to know the same of you.

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