Comment: August 2014

Fairness in fire-service hiring
August 01, 2014
Written by
Most college or university graduates polish their resumes, ply friends and relatives for industry contacts, apply for jobs, and, eventually, find a position in a field related to the degree, diploma or certificate for which they studied. Sure, summer job experience gives graduates an edge, and, as we all know, it’s not necessarily what you know, but who you know.

Firefighters are different – except for the nepotism, which, anecdotally, is as much as issue in fire as it is in any other profession. In many cases, children of firefighters are good candidates who have the necessary drive and discipline for the job. In other cases, fire chiefs have sway in the hiring processes and if one fire chief knows another fire chief’s child, well, you know how it goes.

That’s part of the issue.

Meet Britney Holmberg, a firefighter with Brampton Fire and Emergency Services in Ontario, who took out a $10,000 line of credit to fund her applications to municipal fire departments and the testing that is part of the process. (See our cover story on page 10.)

Britney’s case is typical – school and training followed by three years of tests, coaching, interviews, and more debt.

Those who can’t afford the testing process don’t apply, and that has led to a lack of diversity in the fire service.

The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs’ (OAFC) new Candidate Testing Service (CTS) deals with all of those issues: nepotism, cost and the lack of diversity. (This is not how CTS advertises, of course, but having spent considerable time learning about the process, this is how I see it – win-win.) CTS also streamlines the hiring process for municipalities and removes considerable stress for candidates, who test once rather than for every municipality to which they apply.

Candidates pay about $800 for testing: aptitude, interpersonal skills, work styles, CPAT, medical, clinical and firefighter technical skills. Those who pass are given a certificate and can apply – at no charge – to as many municipalities as they wish that have signed on with CTS. The municipality chooses candidates to interview and hire.

Although OAFC members pushed for CTS, not all have bought in yet. Many municipalities have their own hiring programs and were in the midst of recruiting when CTS launched so aren’t ready to change. Some chiefs have yet to broach the subject with HR. Others, when asked by email, declined to provide reasons but simply said they don’t support CTS.

There are other candidate-testing services in Ontario; none, as far as I can tell, is as comprehensive as CTS. All are for profit, and some rely on advisory services from one or more chiefs who sit on their boards. I’ll let you read between the lines.

CTS is a big change; effectively, it removes some control of the hiring process from chief officers, who can’t look the other way and interview someone’s kid who scored lower than others on the tests

How is that a bad thing?

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