The City of Sumter’s Fire Department struggled to recruit new firefighters. During the past two decades, the city recruited only half of the number of firefighters it had been able to previously. Extensive training requirements made the job a tough sell to college-bound kids, and the department grappled to find qualified candidates while dealing with an ever-tightening budget.
In 2011, the Sumter Fire Department approached the school district to create a training program that would satisfy Department of Education standards while allowing students to earn a Fire II certification. The course is a two-year endeavor designed for juniors and seniors, and takes place at the county’s career center.
Paying for the initiative is a team effort. The school district pays for the costs of the classroom facility and the instructor’s salary. The city assumes all costs associated with using and maintaining the emergency vehicles and fire-training grounds. The fire department provides the personal protective equipment and also received a grant from the South Carolina Firefighters Association for medical equipment.
Thirteen students enrolled in the first year. News of the program increased interest in the city’s regular certification classes, which saw a 30 percent increase in participation. By hiring from a pool of 25 perspective firefighters trained through the program, the city can cut training costs by 60 percent through partnerships and collaborative efforts with the school district.
Officials anticipate enrollment in next year’s class will double based on the interest of area high school students.
Contact Shelley Kile at email@example.com or 803.795.2463.