New course fills gap in supervisory training

In the past, it seemed as if there were always more than enough suitable mentors in any given fire department to offer supervisory training to firefighters.

But higher turnover rates and more early retirements mean it's now increasingly difficult to find someone to teach the skills needed to become an effective supervisor.

To try to fill the gap, an innovative course has been launched, which also aims to serve as study tool for promotional testing exams.

It has been designed by Fields Consulting Group, headed by Dr. Cassi Fields, who has more than 15 years of experience in administering promotional testing, and conducting supervisory and management training for firefighters.

Fields said she began developing the course partly in response to feedback from the candidates about their tests.

"We noticed that while they felt the supervisory skills they were being tested on were necessary, they said they had no training in that area to prepare them for it," she said.

Through her extensive work with fire departments, Fields noted that many external supervisory courses taken by firefighters are not specific enough to the fire service.

Then, there's the time and cost issues — and the lack of mentors.

"The ratio of mentors to young firefighters is very different from what it was even 10 years ago," Fields said, "and fire departments don't really have the time or the resources to send people to training courses or the resources to bring people in for internal training."

While there are supervisory courses that are available, Fields added, they only touch upon a few relevant areas and aren't very industry specific.

Her group's course materials are made up of an instructor set — which includes a five-module DVD, an instructor manual and a certification exam.  There is also a separate student manual.

It allows the department to select its own instructors who, following successful completion of the certification exam, can begin administrating the course at a station or formally at an academy.

"An experienced supervisor in a fire department who is instructor certified will be able to pick up this course and use it immediately, and can really customize it to suit the exact needs of their Department," Fields said.


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