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Springfield Fire Department joins Department of Labor apprenticeship program

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 7:31 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The Springfield Fire Department may begin registering new firefighters into the U.S. Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship Program.

In September, Springfield City Council voted to approve an agreement between the Springfield Fire Department and the U.S. Department of Labor. The fire department sought out the program to provide opportunities for firefighters to earn credit while accomplishing their formal fire academy and fire service-related on-the-job training.

Assistant Chief Olan Morelan says the goal of this partnership is to help with the recruitment and retention of firefighters.

”It gives the firefighters credit for what they’re already doing and the training they’ve received,” Assistant Chief Morelan says.”

SFD has registered 46 firefighters as apprentices in their new program. The program consists of 6,000 hours of on-the-job training for firefighters new to the fire service. Assistant Chief Morelan says that takes about three years to complete.

It also allows for prior credit to be given to those who have previous experience.

Assistant Chief Morelan says this will not only help Springfield but fire departments across the region.

“If they’re short, then we’re short,” Assistant Chief Morelan says. “We’re trying to create a pipeline and a work development program for the fire service.”

When applying for the fire academy, there is an opportunity to get hired as a full-time employee from the start. If that’s the case, you get paid to go through training. However, for those not hired going through the academy, it’s unpaid.

This apprenticeship would change that.

Apprenticeship is an industry-driven, high-quality career pathway where employers can develop and prepare their future workforce, and individuals can obtain paid work experience, classroom instruction, and a nationally recognized, portable credential. Apprenticeship is not just for the private sector – many municipal and federal government agencies, including the U.S. military, have apprenticeship programs.

Director of Workforce Development for the city of Springfield, Sally Payne, says the paid on-the-job training is beneficial for potential candidates.

“It may be very difficult and challenging for individual families to go without a paycheck while they’re receiving training of any kind so what’s so great about apprenticeships is they earn from day one,” Payne says.

Assistant Chief Morelan says this will allow the fire department to reach a wider group of potential applicants.

“We wanna reflect our community,” Assistant Chief Morelan says. “We want to have as many women and minorities in the fire department as we have men, and right now it’s a male-dominated career field. This is a job anyone can do with the right training.”

There are 485 active apprentice programs, including 33 new programs in fiscal year 2020, with 14,200 active apprentices. The Springfield Fire Department is the first fire department in the state of Missouri in the program.

“The registered apprenticeship program is an exceptional opportunity to provide our firefighters and those we train with a nationally recognized credential, in addition to opening the door for additional education and training opportunities,” said Fire Chief David Pennington. “Our partnership with the Missouri Career Center, and the leadership of our teams in the fire department and workforce development have made this opportunity a reality. We look forward to all this will provide for the fire service throughout the region,” Chief Pennington said.

The Department of Labor officially recognized the Springfield Fire Department as a new program on Sept. 9 and presented the official documentation on Oct. 27 at a small ceremony in Springfield at the Springfield Fire Department Training facility.

Those interested in firefighter employment with the city of Springfield are encouraged to contact Lori Dyer with the Human Resources Department at 417-864-1607 or visit www.springfieldmo.gov/jobs. There is an upcoming spring of 2022 fire academy.

Assistant Chief Morelan says the ultimate goal is for the fire department to eventually have two academies each year, with one exclusively filled with people in the apprenticeship program.

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