From education to employment

Firefighters seeking new talent at London South East Colleges

A team of firefighters stationed in Bromley and Orpington has offered students at London South East Colleges’ Bromley Campus an insight into the London Fire Brigade (LFB) and its many careers.

Bromley Borough Commander Terry Gooding, South East Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Welch, Orpington Station Commander John Owen, along with firefighters Lisa Whitehead and Fran Flin came along to enlighten students from a range of different courses including Public Services, Health and Social Care, Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy about the application process and what they can expect if they were to pursue a career with the LFB.

Mr Gooding told the students: “If you were to be successful, I can promise you an absolutely brilliant career which is very rewarding. You will receive the best training in both operational firefighting and also preventative work that we undertake. We are looking for people that possess so much more than just being strong. It is just as important that you are able to work as part of team and can communicate effectively with members of our communities. I have always thought of it as the best job in the world and would encourage you all to come and see us at one of our fire stations if you are serious about a career with the LFB.”

Lisa Whitehead has been with the LFB for only three years and before applying had no experience at all. She is one of over 200 female firefighters currently operating in London and the Brigade are looking for more. She said: “As a woman, I was positively encouraged and supported all the way. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t handed anything on a plate, I had to work very hard to get in – just like all the male firefighters. Once my application was dispatched, I worked on my fitness in both my upper and lower body and made sure I could handle the very tough physical requirements.

“Aptitude and competency within many different disciplines are also of the highest possible importance. As well as being able to carry or drag very heavy objects out of a burning building or confined space, you also need to know how to assemble equipment and apparatus, use all the tools, communicate clearly, take orders and be a trusted and loyal member of a team. There are many situations where you will be responsible not just for the lives of civilians, but also for your fellow firefighters.”

John Owen, Lisa’s Commander at the Orpington station, backed up everything she told the audience and added: “We are looking for people to join us who can keep a level head, be willing to undertake tasks from rescuing victims of a fire, driving a heavy vehicle at high speed, carrying heavy equipment and much more. You will need to show us you have excellent manual dexterity, physical and mental strength and be a brilliant team worker. You will also need to be constantly working to improve yourself, contribute ideas and be fully supportive of your colleagues.”

Fran Flin has a 25-year long career to look back on. She joined after being in a number of jobs and wanted something that really tested her. She said: “It was a challenge that I set myself and one that still tests me every shift. I wanted a job in which I can help people and it has never stopped being anything other than that. I drive a fire engine, I involve myself in community outreach projects such as fire prevention and safety checks and I love it.”

Public Services students Elizabeth Mooney and George Elsey are both hoping to become firefighters in the next few years and are studying and training hard to achieve their ambitions.

Elizabeth, 17, enrolled on the course because she wanted to become a Police Officer but changed her mind after joining the Orpington Fire Cadettes last year. She said: “I’m attracted to this profession because I really want a job that helps keep people safe. Having met many of the people who work at our local station, I’ve totally made up my mind that this is what I want to do.

“There are a number of myths and perceptions about it being a career just for men and that it’s a bit of a macho culture. This couldn’t be further from the truth – male and female firefighters are treated equally and with respect.”

George, 16, has wanted to join the fire brigade all his life. His own grandfather was once a firefighter and would tell George all about his career. George said: “My grandad told me some amazing stories and I lived in awe of the heroics that he and his workmates would perform each week. Of course, I had to follow in his footsteps and that is what I’m working towards on this great course. The visit today has only reinforced my determination to work and train even harder.”

 If you are interested in a career with the LFB, London South East Colleges offers a wide range of courses to get you started.

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