Federal Grant Solves Two Problems: Manpower and Minority Hiring

Federal Grant Solves Two Problems: Manpower and Minority Hiring

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Fire service administrators are always seeking new solutions to problems.

A program developed by the Lake Barton, Fla., Fire Department has provided some new answers to the need for more manpower at a time when budgets face an increasing squeeze because of lower tax revenues. At the same time, the pressure to employ minorities in the fire service has increased at a time when it is difficult to obtain funds for training and recruiting minorities.

In November 1975, the Lake Barton Fire Department proposed an innovative program to the Orange County, Fla., Manpower Consortium. The proposal called for a $80,544 grant under title I of the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). The proposal for a nine-month program for 12 participants coupled two of the five CETA programs already being run by Orange County, vocational education and onthe-job training. The latter, for this proposal was titled fire fighter training.

Second grant awarded

Orange County accepted the proposal and an agreement was signed last January. Implementation began in February and by June, 42 percent of the participants were placed in permanent jobs in the fire service three months ahead of schedule. The program success throughout the first four and a half months resulted in the award of a second grant, for $96,626, for a nine-month period beginning last October 1.

The grants covered the costs of physical examinations, including EKGs, uniforms, work shoes, protective gear, textbooks, EMT registration and books, allowances while in school, salary during on-the-job training, and matching costs (social security, workmen’s compensation, unemployment compensation, group hospitalization, life insurance and some administrative costs for training and record-keeping).

In the Lake Barton fire fighters training program, participants received 520 hours of vocational education training in fire service related subjects, including state-approved fire figher certification, and 1456 hours of on-thejob training in fire fighting. There was an attempt to enlist at least 50 percent minorities in the program and one goal was to place at least 50 percent of the participants in unsubsidized positions. All positions were held open for 48 hours to provide special veterans’ preference.

The primary goal of this program was to train individuals to become certified fire fighters as defined by Florida statutes and to gain full-time employment in the fire service.

Subjects taught

Participants received training certificates for 200 hours of Florida minimum standards training, emergency gas handling, radiological monitoring, fire stream hydraulics, fire prevention inspection, arson detection, auto extrication and rescue, standard and multimedia system first aid, voluntary compliance with OSHA, and 600 hours of fire fighter basic training. Included in the program were 126 hours of emergency medical technician I training from Valencia Community College during on-the-job training.

Trainees responded to woods, grass and structural fires and particpated in in-service engine company inspections. Several condemned buildings were used for live-fire training. Several trainees spent nights riding with engine companies and attended drills with volunteers.

Upon completion of the vocational education classroom portion of the program, the participants were assigned to engine companies on 24/48 work schedules for on-the-job training. Several participants were assigned to other Orange County fire departments as fire fighters for training as well as to give the chiefs an opportunity to evaluate them for permanent employment.

Additional benefits

The spinoff benefits of this program included: (1) additional manpower available for response during the day while in vocational education classes at fire department training facilities, (2) additional manpower when assigned to a shift, as well as increased response capabilities, (3) replacement coverage for vacations, sick leave, and scheduled leaves for educational schools, reducing overtime costs, (4) the retention by the fire department training division of textbooks, training slides, tools and films, (5) the retention of 12 complete sets of protective clothing, (6) salaries for instructor personnel through vocational education funds, (7) opportunity to observe and evaluate potential candidates, (8) increased engine company inspections, and (9) hiring and training minorities, Viet Nam era veterans and underemployed persons.

This program like all first-time programs had its problem areas. The implementation date of the program followed the contract date so closely that adequate implementation planning time was insufficient. Textbooks and protective clothing were 60 to 90 days late and there was a coordination problem with vocational technical education. However, the latter was mainly because the training oficer took an overseas assignment midway in the second month.

Three persons replaced

In an effort to serve the underskilled and minority sector, three applicants were selected who normally would not have been chosen because of learning disability problems. They had to be replaced during the classroom portion of the program.

The program was successful overall and accomplished the goals of training the participants to become certified fire fighters, and job placement appears to be excellent for all the participants.

Many departments will be able to adapt this program to fit their own needs. It is an excellent vehicle for training and selecting minority personnel for fire service careers and it gives those participants an opportunity to learn fire service work. It can be a relief to budgets by using federal assistance programs to train cadets for employmerit at a minimum cost to the fire department.

In answering many inquiries about our CETA fire fighter training program, we formulated a step-by-step sequence to follow in preparing a proposal. These steps will vary from community to community, so steps may be added or deleted.

Steps in preparing proposal

The following steps are suggested:

  1. Determine your fire department’s personnel needs in regard to projected growth as well as vacancies because of retirement and resignations. Cooperative programs may be conducted by two or more departments in an area and in rural areas, by departments in more than one county.
  2. Determine the type and amount of assistance available from your local vocational educational department and any other agencies that could augment your program (state fire marshal, state fire college, city or county fire training academies, etc.). Funding for teachers’ salaries, either part-time or full-time, might be done with vocational education funds. Determine the textbooks, films, projectors and other training materials needed.
  3. Prepare a proposal showing the number of participants expected, the type of training and the subject matter (basic and advanced fire fighting, specialized fire service subjects, EMT, etc.). Specify who will supervise the classroom training and the on-the-job training. Cite the number of projected jobs that will be available and estimate the number of minority participants. Include any other pertinent information that may be helpful to your proposal.
  4. Determine the costs for the program, including: physical examinations with EKGs, uniforms and safety shoes, fire fighting clothing, life insurance and group hospitalization, matching costs for social security, workmen’s compensation and unemployment compensation, and wages. The starting salaries of some departments are greater than the maximum allowed by CETA regulations. This will require adjustments downward during the training program. An alternative would be to augment the CETA salaries with local funds to bring the trainee’s salaries up to department scale for recruits. The cost of training materials, textbooks, postage, administrative and secretarial services and miscellaneous items also must be determined.

Anyone desiring additional information may write to Chief W. D. Killen, Lake Barton Fire Department, 996 N. Semoran Boulevard, Orlando, Fla. 32807, or telephone 305-277-1617 or 305-277-7601. Those living in Federal Region 4 (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky. Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee) can write to the Employment and Training Administration, U. S. Department of Labor. 1371 Peachtree Street. Atlanta, Ga. 30309. Those in other states can write to the National Office, Employment and Training Administration, Department of Labor, 601 D Street. Washington, D.C. 20213.

Funds are available under title I for educational and on-the-job training benefits and under title 11. for American Indians in certain areas of the country.

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