A partnership between Saskatoon Public Schools and the Saskatoon Fire Department provides a unique opportunity for high school students to explore career opportunities.
The Fire Introduction Recruitment Experience (FIRE) Cadet program saw students from Bedford Road Collegiate, Mount Royal Collegiate and Tommy Douglas Collegiate participate in the program’s second year of operation during April and May of 2016.
“It was a great way to be hands-on with the Saskatoon Fire Department and get to experience some of the things they do on a day-to-day basis,” said Britney Malyk, a student at Bedford Road Collegiate. “I also learned that teamwork is 100 per cent a skill you must have to be in a career like this. . . . Every day that I went to attend the program I was nothing but thrilled.”
The program is available to Grade 11 and 12 students who are enrolled in a Career and Work Explorations program during the second semester of the school year. It provides the 50 to 60 hours of practical experience through a work placement that students require In addition to the in-classroom component in order to complete their credit.
Two training sessions per week during the eight-week period provided students with hands-on opportunities to learn and experience a range of firefighting and emergency services skills including CPR accreditation, vehicle extrication, operation of hoses and hydrants, use of ladders and aerial apparatus, dark-room search and rescue, water rescue and forcible entry.
The cadets also took part in the community-service related activities including the pickup of discarded needles and garbage and fire safety presentations to elementary school students.
A total of 24 students, both male and female, from four Saskatoon high schools took part in the program during 2016, an increase from the nine students from two schools who were part of the program’s pilot year in 2015. Fire department trainers involved in the program say the students were quick to come together as a team despite coming from different schools.
“We definitely got to experience a closeness (among the students); watching the kids become a team, working as a team, getting out of their comfort zones,” said Doug Wegren of the Saskatoon Fire Department. “We offered them an opportunity and they blossomed and were very thankful for that opportunity.”
Renae Brooman, a student at Bedford Road, said the training gave her the chance to explore a career she had already set her eyes on. She learned a lot about herself as a person during the program, particularly during the challenge of rappelling down a six-storey training tower.
“Britney and I volunteered to go first and we were both on the verge of tears, but once it was done and we were walking on the wall it was definitely something that we wanted to do again,” Brooman said. “It took a great amount of confidence to trust and lean back out of a window, but doing it -- and knowing I could do that on my own – gave me so much more confidence. It’s something I am really proud of.
“Before this program I doubted myself a lot. I doubted I was capable of being a firefighter. I think a lot of this was because I am female and thought I couldn’t compete with most of the males. But now I can honestly say I believe in myself a lot more and have a lot more self-confidence because of this program. The self-confidence came from the many tasks I had to perform which pushed me far out of my comfort zone.”
While the FIRE Cadet program provides a unique experience for students, it is only one example of the many work exploration opportunities available through the career education programs offered to students at Saskatoon Public Schools’ collegiates.
“Career and Work Exploration aims to assist students in lifelong learning to understand themselves, to identify unique skills and abilities and make informed decisions based on occupational choices through learning in the work placement,” said Diane Newton, a career education teacher at Bedford Road. “It provides an opportunity to explore a wide range of career awareness experiences. Students set personal goals and identify characteristic they need to develop toward meeting those goals.”
Career education and the work experience component provides students with the chance to identify transferable skills, assess workplace situations, learn accountability and commitment and make confident decisions. The workplace experience also allows students to develop a network of contacts and mentors that are invaluable in the future.