From education to employment

Firefighter apprentices on mid-career change

Firefighter apprentice

A common misconception about apprenticeships is that they are aimed at school-leavers making their first foray into the world of work, typically in a technical or engineering role.

These days, however, such an image couldn’t be further from the truth, with apprentices just as likely to be sat behind a desk as they are wearing overalls.

And whilst a recent study suggests that apprenticeships are now the favoured destination for a majority of 16–18-year-olds, it is increasingly common to see people in their twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties and beyond going down the apprenticeship route in pursuit of a career change.

Among the growing number of people opting for a fresh start and carving out a new career path as an apprentice are Andy Majer and Josh Manley of Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service.

“I was in the Army for 12 years and I left in 2021, I thought that a career in fire and rescue would be a good fit for me,” says Andy.

Having initially joined the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Joint Control Room as a call operator, a Level 3 Operational Firefighter Apprenticeship opportunity arose, giving Andy the opportunity to train as a wholetime firefighter.

Four months into his apprenticeship journey and ex-serviceman Andy is fully embracing life as Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue apprentice.

“I’ve learnt a lot in the last few months, from learning to work with different types of people in different environments to hands-on training such as the road traffic collision course which has been a sure highlight for me.”

The unique blend of classroom-based learning and on-the job training offered by an apprenticeship is ideal grounding for the rigours of the job says Andy, who has his sights firmly fixed on becoming a full-time firefighter in two years’ time after he passes his ‘End Point Assessment’ which will be carried out by SFJ Awards.

He says:

“I’m looking forward to getting onto my allocated station and getting stuck in with the job properly,”

“I really enjoy my On-Call role so I can’t wait to do it full time.”

Equally upbeat about his future in the fire and rescue service is Josh. Before embarking on his apprenticeship, Josh was an assistant manager at an outdoor retailer.

Having harboured ambitions to be a Firefighter from an early age, he finally decided to take the plunge and applied for an apprenticeship. The practical, hands-on nature of some of the training has been perfect for outdoorsy Josh who is relishing the challenge that a Firefighter apprenticeship entails.

Josh says:

“On top of being physically demanding at times, there is a lot of information to take in – you’re always learning and improving which is a great thing, but it can be hard. I love being able to experience things not everyone can and testing my own limits,”

“There are a lot of assessments and a ton of information to learn, but Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue are an ace employer and really supportive.”

With this week being National Apprenticeship Week (5 – 10 February), Josh had these words of advice to would be apprentices.

“Be yourself, ask for help when you need it, create a culture of support with those around you.”

“It’s never too late to learn and develop your career through an apprenticeship,” he adds.

Echoing his fellow apprentice, Andy is effusive about his experiences so far, and encourages those considering a career change to give a fire and rescue apprenticeship a second look.

“I didn’t realise at first that apprenticeships are open to everyone – even if you’ve been with your employer for years, you can still apply for an apprenticeship to gain new qualifications and learn new skills.”

“My advice is this just go for it; it will be a tough process but well worth it.”

SFJ Awards is the End-Point Assessment Organisation of choice for the protective services, with industry leading expertise in Policing, Justice, Fire and Rescue, Custody and Detention, and Emergency Services.

Start your EPA journey today and get in touch with the team.

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