This is the next generation of firefighters who will be keeping the communities of Hampshire safe – and the number of women has increased by almost 900%. This follows a proactive 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%), have just passed the gruelling 16 weeks of training and are 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%) – 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% – 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.
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 in-house 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.’
For more information, go to www.hantsfire.gov.uk