www.firefightingincanada.com

Features Blogs From the Floor
From the Floor

Sept. 4, 2012, Winnipeg – It’s time to go back to school! I love the end of August and the start of fall for many reasons. The weather is my favorite, as the days are still warm, and the evening bon fires at the cabin start to mean something as the fire takes the chill out of the night air. But the real reason I like this time of year so much is that school starts for my three kids, and this year all three will be going all day as my youngest has graduated from kindergarten (don’t get me started on kindergarten graduation; another Hallmark holiday if you ask me).

September 4, 2012
By Jay Shaw

Topics

Sept. 4, 2012, Winnipeg – It’s time to go back to school! I love the end of August and the start of fall for many reasons. The weather is my favorite, as the days are still warm, and the evening bon fires at the cabin start to mean something as the fire takes the chill out of the night air. But the real reason I like this time of year so much is that school starts for my three kids, and this year all three will be going all day as my youngest has graduated from kindergarten (don’t get me started on kindergarten graduation; another Hallmark holiday if you ask me).

What about your education plan as an adult learner? Studies have proven that education has a direct result on promotion, wage increases, and opportunity. No matter how you define it, education opens doors.

As a firefighter, and more importantly as a father and provider, I want to set a good example for my family, and subsequently this fall, when I graduate, I will be the first Shaw to hold a university degree. Opportunities are already starting to present themselves as I have been encouraged to apply for a few jobs, been asked to join a consulting team doing risk and hazard assessments for municipal governments, and my education has opened up a whole new world of entrepreneurial possibilities that I am excited about. So what about you?

It does not matter if you want to be the next fire chief or you just want to be the best firefighter or officer possible. Your experience combined with the right education is the key to achieving your goal. I frequently hear that guys that take courses are ladder climbers and are only interested in the power of the rank and not the betterment of the job. While there are examples in which this may be the case, that old-school mentality is slowing dying as a new generation of fire-service learners have been slowly increasing enrollment across Canada. The fire-service future is a world in which advanced education and experience are treated equally.

Did you know that there are several university programs that cater to firefighters exclusively here in Canada? The Justice Institute of British Columbia offers a Bachelor of Fire & Safety Studies degree that is flexible in delivery and offers a ton of online options. Dalhousie University (one of Canada’s top-ranked schools) offers several fire officer certificate programs through its continuing education division.

Lakeland College in Alberta offers a Bachelor of Applied Business: Emergency Services degree that has business practicums and work placements through which students gain hands-on managerial experience.

Dozens of online and brick-and-mortar universities and colleges offer general business, leadership, project management, MBA, and disaster-management certificates, diplomas and degrees right here in Canada. The time has never been easier to start. Let’s face it, the thought of a veteran firefighter starting a university program may seem a little challenging as many people in the fire service who have many years on the job have not done any formal writing, studying, or testing for a while, and the process of getting back into academia may seem like an insurmountable challenge; I ‘m here to tell you that it can, and should be looked into as all of these schools are geared toward adult learning and understand your fears. Academic advisors are trained to help you make the right choices and help you transition back into school. Some schools should be paying me for this – sheesh!

Step one: Decide why you’re doing it – job security, promotion, general education, officer development.

Step two: Talk to someone you can trust and ask questions about what school or program best suits your department or region. Your HR department and union may have information on trends in your area. In fact, the IAFF now offers its own fire-service degree options through an American online school.

Step three: Talk to your department about tuition reimbursement. Many cities offer education grants but have never had a lot of firefighters actually take them up on it. It can’t hurt to ask, as I was given a few nuggets towards my degree.

Step four: If you’re in a large department, someone is already doing this. Find out who and ask questions. If your department is small you may need to dig a bit further. I had one rookie who was taking his degree through Lakeland College call me up and ask for help on Maslow’s theory and how it relates to the paramilitary system. Informal networking is all around us. I have found Twitter to be an enormous vehicle through which to find and meet mentors and like-minded firefighters. You can follow me on twitter @911writer.

Education is not just for our kids and the unemployed. Improving skillsets and continuous adult learning is the new paradigm in today’s economy; the fire service is no longer exempt from this ideology. Even if you want to head to the bookstore, or just invest in a one-day seminar or conference, you can make improvements in your quality of work, life, and your relationships by focusing on you. A great book to read that is so applicable to the fire service even though it is not a fire book is The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell. I will be attending my first leadership conference when Maxwell comes to Winnipeg this month, and while I have a bit of an uneasy feeling that it will be a big hug fest, I am enthusiastic to see what learning I can pull out of this day-long session.

So get your backpacks packed, and start searching what school you’re going to go to. Make a commitment to self-improvement and try something new this semester.

Now, I have to go and help my wife write our kids' names on all of their crayons and pencils. Why do kids need seven glue sticks for the year? And why the heck does a kid in grade 6 need a $50 scientific calculator?

Have fun and happy learning!

Jay Shaw is a 10-year member of the Winnipeg Fire Department and is completing graduate studies in disaster and emergency management at Royal Roads University. Jay also works at the University of Manitoba as a research assistant in the Disaster Research Institute. E-mail Jay at jjrg@mymts.net.


Print this page

Related



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*