Professional Status: The Future of Fire Service Training and Education–PART FOUR: COMBINING THE SYSTEMS: INDEPENDENT ASSESSMENT OF SKILLS/RECIPROCITY

Part I
Part II
Part III

Again, working with the state fire training systems, the USFA/NFA not only addressed a way that individual regions can meet their needs but has done it in a way that also strengthens reciprocity. The USFA/NFA has given state training systems a way to include their top-level courses into the national curriculum. To accomplish this, we’ve formed a partnership with the state training directors and agreed upon the criteria and standards for selection and approval of these courses. If the course meets the criteria, then it becomes a part of the national curriculum. These state developed courses, which are peer-reviewed and approved, are called endorsed courses. Students who pass an endorsed course may receive USFA/NFA certificates and be registered in our database. One of the key benefits is that an endorsed course is taught by local instructors.

A third way to strengthen reciprocity and increase the number of courses delivered is to give states the opportunity to deliver train-the-trainer courses for any of the 37 two-day direct delivery USFA/NFA courses. Those local trainers, working through the state system, may issue our certificates and register their students in our database.

States may issue NFA certificates on any of the 34 NFA hand-off courses delivered by local instructors when they register the student in our database.

States may deliver any of these courses–USFA/NFA developed courses (enfranchised) or approved state courses (endorsed) at a state training facility, a regional training facility, a college or university, or a local fire department. It is their choice.

To give the state training systems the opportunity to deliver this increased training, each has the opportunity to apply for a $25,000 grant for the sole purpose of delivering these abovementioned courses.

Benefits of a Common System of Training and Education and Reciprocity
The foremost benefit is that it is the next logical step in establishing the professional status of the men and women in the fire and emergency services. There is already a recognized body of professional knowledge. We now are beginning a universal system that allows everyone equal access to that professional knowledge.

The second principal benefit is that more people can now participate in USFA/NFA courses. We know that everyone cannot attend our classes in Emmitsburg. Enfranchisement permits states to deliver our courses locally at local training sites, using our instructors, with full college credit recommendation.

The third benefit is the reduction in course development costs. Currently, fire departments 50 miles away from each other are spending time, effort, and money to develop the very same course. They have no idea that someone so close is working just as hard, spending just as much money and facing the same development obstacles they are. With an endorsement system available, departments can contact the state to find out what courses are already available before they decide to begin developing a course. No training system in this country has all of the people and money it needs to develop courses. This solves a lot of those development problems.

The fourth benefit is reciprocity. Each state is now a part of a national system, empowered to issue USFA/NFA certificates for training and education provided. It therefore logically follows that states would accept certificates as evidence of training received in some other jurisdiction. Those basics are already built into the system; it simply saves training time and money. No one has to repeat a course because they moved; no department has to retrain a person in courses they’ve already had. It is similar to the status enjoyed by physicians, nurses, attorneys, engineers, architects, accountants, and others.

The fifth benefit is that it increases the number of training courses available to state and local training systems, either through enfranchisement, endorsement, or increased train-the-trainer courses.

The sixth benefit is that colleges and universities are a part of the system, building an environment that colleges can award credit for certification received, and that state fire training systems may accept some college credit toward certification requirements. Following the model curriculum, students should be able to transfer college credit between systems, and employers would have a firm understanding of the knowledge, skills, and abilities of those who hold degrees in the fire field.

The seventh benefit is that the training and education model follows a logical sequence, endorsed by the International Association of Fire Chiefs Professional Development Committee’s Officer Development Handbook.

Challenges
The State Fire Training Directors and the USFA/NFA staff have worked diligently for three years on this concept, overcoming obstacles, negotiating agreements, and identifying improvements. With the concept approved and endorsed by the National Fire Academy Board of Visitors, and the co-chair representatives of the state and local fire training group (TRADE), the initial phases of the program have begun.

In 2000, states were notified that $25,000 grants, which could be used to deliver USFA/NFA courses, were available; since then, all have applied and used those funds. The program allowing state training systems to deliver USFA/NFA developed courses (enfranchisement) was also begun in 2000, and on the same day, the agreement that established the criteria and process to endorse state courses into the national curricula was announced. All of the funding and administrative pieces are in place.

Our next challenge is one of participation and cooperation–encouraging local training systems and colleges to cooperate and participate in the system. That is what we need all of you to help us do.

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