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Recruitment Drive Sees Hike in Female Firefighters

Published: 12th October 2019 16:44

The number of women joining Hampshire Fire and Rescue has increased by almost 900 per cent.

This follows a pro-active campaign by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) to promote the role of an operational firefighter to underrepresented groups as well as the community at large.

The latest intake of 41 - which includes 13 women (31.7 percent) - has just passed the gruelling 16-weeks of training and is now preparing to begin their career on station

The previous recruitment drive at the end of 2017 was made up of 27 men and one woman (3.7 percent) – before this the organisation had not recruited for eight years.

The standard of applicants was so high this year that a talent pool was created for a total of 70 successful candidates for this intake or future roles.

Seven of these – almost 10 percent - were from Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds compared to zero in the previous intake.

Inclusion and Diversity Manager Leanne Illman said: “We had a targeted recruitment campaign in which we tried to remove historic barriers that may have previously prevented people from considering the fire service as a career.

“This increase is great news but there is still more to do to ensure people from all underrepresented groups in our communities know the fire service is a fantastic place to work.

“We strive to have a workforce that represents the community it serves but there is no lowering of standards. Every job is given on merit.”

Learning and Development Group Manager Dean Haward said: “It is wonderful that people from all different backgrounds and communities are starting to consider a career in the fire service.

“Our rigorous and challenging selection process is designed to ensure we pick the people who are best for the job and we want as wide a pool to pick from as possible.

“Every new firefighter got their place on merit, hard work and commitment – and we should all be immensely proud of them.”

Of the new intake 23 candidates were existing on-call firefighters who have now become wholetime recruits.

The 18 taken on from outside the fire service family will be joining them in making lives safer across the county.

In Southampton Rosie Parker, Charlie Ashman, Vytas Jakimavicius, Lisa Froment and Matthew Broadway will be serving at St Mary’s, while Samuel Richards, Jake McNally and Owen Jones will be at Hightown.

Portsmouth will see Bradley Yates and Roxanne Roberts start at Southsea while Jason Stares, Jason Parish and Cameron Forrester will be based at Cosham.

In the north of the county Harry Amos will start at Basingstoke and Ian Carpenter and Tara Caulfield will be working out of Rushmoor.

Jenna Martin and Laura Carruthers will begin their firefighting careers at Fareham.

To make the service more inclusive a list was compiled of interested women and BAME potential candidates from across the county who attended various events throughout the year.

Coaching sessions were available to all applicants along with bespoke fitness programmes and other tips and hands-on experience.

Have a Go days were held and recruitment posters aimed at women were put up in female-only gyms as well as other gyms.

A social media and press campaign was also launched to promote HFRS female and BAME role models and explain more about the job of the modern firefighter.

A high-quality inhouse video exploding the myths around women in the fire service reached more than 100,000 within days of being released.

It was shared thousands of times including by other services such as London Fire Brigade and South Yorkshire, Surrey, Kent and Bedfordshire FRSs.

It was also shared by all four female chief fire officers Dany Cotton, Becci Bryant, Dawn Whittaker and Sabrina Cohen-Hatton.

The service attended numerous events to appeal to people from non-white ethnic groups and held a variety of faith days representing various religions. These were supported by the community.

It also hosted the launch of Black History Month, the national Asian Fire Service Association conference and made it into the record books for its dragon dance performance for Chinese New Year.

Chief Fire Officer Neil Odin said: “Diversity is the lifeblood of any healthy organisation and I am delighted more people from our underrepresented groups are considering careers with us.

“Our new firefighters should feel incredibly proud to have reached the high standards we demand to wear the uniform of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service – we are certainly proud of them.

“As the role of the firefighter evolves I am sure that they will embrace new skills and innovation while upholding the finest traditions of the service.”

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority Chairman Chris Carter said: “HFRS is among the best fire and rescue services in the country and we want to be recruiting from as wide and diverse a pool of people as possible.

“I am always overwhelmed by the support and affection that our firefighters generate with the public they serve and the special place they occupy at the heart of the community.

“I am delighted to welcome them into our emergency service family and watch as they take the first steps on an exciting and rewarding.”

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