Firefighters in England are approximately 95% male and white. Only 5.2% of firefighters in England are women, while just 3.9% are from an ethnic minority background (BAME).With this in mind, the Home Office is launching a new campaign designed to help Fire and Rescue Services change that situation.
‘Join the Team: Become a Firefighter’ will combine a fitness guide encouraging more women to serve, as well as mythbusters and real stories of serving firefighters, all designed to shift the perception of what the role involves.
The fitness guide makes it clear that the role is accessible to people from all backgrounds, with examples of the tests applicants need to pass.
Nick Hurd, the Police and Fire minister, said: “Forget what you see on TV. Being a firefighter isn’t always about carrying people out of burning buildings. As fires have become less common, the role is becoming more about engaging with communities and doing work to prevent fires from happening in the first place. If you care about your community and enjoy connecting with people, then be involved. I’m always impressed by the bravery and dedication of firefighters, but it’s time for the workforce to fully reflect the public it serves.”
Clearing up common misunderstandings
Mythbusters will also be published later in the year to clear up common misunderstandings around the role. These will be directed to those in all sectors of the community that have not previously considered a career in the Fire and Rescue Services. For example, they will challenge the idea that only men can do the job, making it clear that women have worked as part of Fire and Rescue Services for decades and have risen to the very top of the profession, with six female fire chiefs now resident across the country.
With bespoke taster sessions for women, simultaneously providing insight into the role and tackling myths about the career; as well as fitness sessions, targeted adverts on social media and pre-recruitment courses, the West Midlands Fire Service has shown what a future firefighting workforce can look like.
Of all of its successful candidates since changing its approach in January 2018, 33% were women and 32% were BAME candidates. For 2020 to 2021, the West Midlands Fire Service is aiming for 60% of its new starters to be women and for 35% of entrants to be BAME.
More progress needs to be made
The Government is clear that more progress needs to be made across England. ‘Join the Team: Become a Firefighter’, which has been developed with support from the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), the Local Government Council and the Inclusive Fire Service Group, is designed to support Fire and Rescue Services to attract a more diverse range applicants in their upcoming recruitment drives.
Ann Millington, chair of the NFCC’s Workforce Committee, said: “I’m delighted to see this new campaign from the Home Office encouraging a more diverse Fire and Rescue Service. Real life Case Studies of women, BAME firefighters and their experiences will help to bust the myths of what the role of a modern firefighter is. We have a number of highly inspirational female staff and we want to encourage more women to join the Fire Service. To do so, we need to move away from the image of a male-dominated sector with traditional masculine roles.”
Millington continued: “The Fire Service is accessible to everyone, regardless of gender, background and ethnicity. This new campaign will hopefully encourage more people to apply to become firefighters. It also gives important information on the fitness standards, which can often be perceived as a barrier, and showcases what a varied role it can be. While we’re seeing the number of women in the Fire Service increasing, we want to ensure we’re continuously building on this and developing a Fire Service that’s representative of the communities we serve.”