Fire service HR chief wants to borrow under-employed staff to be fire-fighters

A fire brigade HR chief is in talks with local employers to ‘borrow’ staff currently on shorter-working weeks because of the recession to work as fire-fighters, Personnel Today has learned.

Steve Mason, interim HR director at Befordshire and Luton Fire Service, said under the scheme up to 10 staff would be bussed from their places of work to a particular fire station where they would then be on call, helping fill the sector’s recruitment gap.

He has already approached local car manufacturing and agricultural companies known to have cut staff hours during the recession, and has received positive feedback.

Mason said: “There’s a problem in the UK fire service in recruiting retained fire-fighters.

“Where industries are cutting down the hours of their own staff we are saying we will invest in them and train them as fire-fighters, using them as retained staff to be on call.

“They will be an extra resource for us while the economy is bad.”

Mason hopes the new scheme will be operational by the summer, and said there was no reason why it could not be rolled out nationally.

When on call, retained fire-fighters must be within five minutes of their station to be able to respond to emergency calls and this can hinder recruitment, especially in more rural areas, Mason said.

He added: “[This scheme is] a way for us to fill vacancies and it gives something back to local employment and the community,” said Mason.

“It can offer those who are demoralised financial support and pride through helping their communities.”

Mason added that fire-fighter training instils values like teamwork and honesty which would be transferable and attractive to future employers.

No extra funding will be required for the scheme because the vacancies have already been budgeted for.

When the upturn comes and staff are required back by their employers, the fire station will run a release scheme, where staff can choose to go back to their original employer, although Mason hopes many will choose to stay.

In March fire stations signed up to new equality and diversity targets to encourage the recruitment of more women and people from ethnic minority bakgrounds into the profession.

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