Aiken Employs Cadet Training Program for Recruitment
This article reports an interesting approach to the problem of personnel recruitment and is presented here solely from this point of view. The fire-police cooperation mentioned in it is incidental to Aiken operations and approval or disapproval of the latter by FIRE ENGINEERING is not implied or intended.
AIKEN, S. C., is presently operating a cadet-training program which is proving to be highly successful. As part of a fire-police cooperation program, the Public Safety Cadet Program enlists two high school graduates each July. The men selected receive a two-year appointment for work in the fire and police departments, together with a two-year college education at the Aiken branch of the University of South Carolina. Class attendance is required and a satisfactory status must be maintained.
Getting high-caliber personnel—before they are committed to other professions—for future permanent positions in the fire and police departments is the primary goal of the program. But a more immediate objective is to augment the present strength of the departments.
A new cadet’s first assignment is three months’ basic training in fire fighting. Duty hours for the cadets are the same as for regular men—24 hours on, 24 off. In addition to responding to fires as regular fire fighters, the cadets spend their week days inspecting hydrants, making fire prevention inspections, and in other routine duties. Duty hours at night and on week ends leave them free to study.
All cadets are assigned to the fire department under the direction of the fire chief. After their fire fighting indoctrination is completed, they may then be assigned duties during daylight hours in the police department in order to gain familiarity with law enforcement. They are not sworn in as police officers, however, and the police chief must assign such work as will permit them to respond to fire calls at all times.
The age of 21 must be reached before a man can qualify for permanent employment as a fire fighter or a policeman. Nevertheless, young adults can gain extensive familiarization with fire protection and police procedures. City officials realize that some cadets will terminate their relationship with the city after their two years are up in order to complete college. There is no obligation on the part of the city or the cadet after two full years. However, it is the feeling that in such cases officials will be able to report that the time put in by the cadets has been worth far more to the city than the small salary paid.
Cadets Barry Whaley and Tim Helms, the first two appointed under the program in July of 1961, learned fire fighting so fast that in just one year, both earned promotions to fire equipment operators. As regular fire fighters the two ex-cadets continued as before, alternating their college classes with fire fighting. One plans to continue study for his degree, while the other expects to remain in the department with an education and experience that gave him a head start in his chosen profession.
Meanwhile two cadets, Thomas Cullinan, age 17, of Aiken and Tommy Padgett, age 17, of Jackson, appointed in 1962, have now completed their first year under the program. Two additional young men have been selected for this year and are now engaged in their work-study duties.