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    In the shadow of likely budget cuts, Arlington school district officials plan to open a two-year vocational program that would turn students into ready-to-hire firefighters.
    The new fire academy, a joint venture by the district, the Arlington Fire Department and Tarrant County College, would train students as firefighters and emergency medical technicians, letting them earn 24 hours of college credit.
    The academy would start with 25 juniors next fall at Sam Houston High School and increase to 50 juniors and seniors the next year. It could be a steady source of applicants for the Fire Department, where 40 percent of its 300 firefighters are eligible for retirement.
    "Like many other fire departments, they're seeing their work force aging, and they want to be prepared to replace people as they retire," said Craig Wright, the district's director of career and technical education. "They would like to find young adults that have been through a course like this."
    The fire academy was patterned after one in the Austin school district. However, Austin officials have decided to shutter that program as part of budget cuts at the school district and Fire Department. Arlington officials said they were disappointed by the news but said their program has some key differences, including lower costs.
    Risk of budget cuts

    Arlington's academy plans must weather upcoming rounds of district budget cuts, forced by a proposed state budget that could reduce funding for the district by $35 million.
    "If we lose state funding, this program could be at risk," Deputy Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos said.
    Under the current plan, the district would pay tuition to TCC -- about $15,400 for 25 juniors in the program's first year and about $30,800 the next year, Wright said. State funding covers all of that, leaving the district to pay about $2,650 for textbooks the first year and $3,250 the second year.
    Officials are still developing a selection process for the program, fire Lt. Pete Arevalo said. A physical, an essay and recommendations could be among the requirements.
    He said graduates could be fast-tracked in the academy or given "a point or two on the entrance exam."
    Arevalo said fire officials are getting a good response from students when they promote the academy and the benefits of a firefighting career.
    "You only work 10 days a month, and fire and police are always taken care of," he said. "And you're able to help people out, to give something back. It's bigger."
    Hands-on training

    Students from all six Arlington high schools are eligible to apply for the academy class, set to run about three hours on alternating afternoons. Students needing rides would be bused to Sam Houston. Those interested in applying should contact their school counselors, officials said.
    Besides classroom work, the students will build their fire suppression skills and get other hands-on training at TCC's 23-acre fire service training center at the Northwest Campus and at the Arlington Fire Department training center on Green Oaks Boulevard.
    "What I hope is that we would reach out to people who would not normally be considering the fire service as their profession," said Steve Keller, coordinator of the TCC fire training center.
    Near graduation, the academy will arrange for students to take the state certification tests in firefighting and emergency medicine. Those who pass the academy and the tests will qualify for an entry-level firefighting job.
    That was one of the flaws in the LBJ Fire Academy in Austin, a joint venture by the school district, Fire Department and Austin Community College that started in 2006.
    Although the Fire Department funded almost all of the academy's $300,000 annual budget, none of the 75 members of its four graduating classes have been hired by the city, said Thayer Smith, the department's battalion chief who oversees the academy and other training programs.


  • #2

    We have had a Somewhat similar program here, but aimed in a different direction. Our interest is in Recruiting Volunteers, rather than setting someone up so that they can get a job, at least on the surface. We approach Fire and EMS training differently here, since ANYONE who wishes to take any type of Training must become a member of a Fire/Rescue/EMS organization BEFORE they enroll in a Class. It has been our position that by doing business this way, we weed out those who couldn't qualify for background or physical reasons before any money is spent on Training them. Many of the young people that completed the High School Cadet Course, as we call it, have gone on to Career Fire Service positions. And that's a good thing. On the other hand, we don't push the program as a way to get a job. First, if you are only looking for a job, we don't want you anyway, here in our area, a Fire Service Career is a lifestyle, not a job. If anyone completes the course but isn't interested in a Fire job, they are still a well trained Volunteer. A quick moment to count up some things, and I can think of a dozen folks from my station who went thru the Cadet Course, 5 of whom are working full time in a Fire position, and 5 more who are in other jobs, but still Volunteering here. One young man left the area, but is Volunteering at his new home, and only one has left the Fire Service totally....
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
    In memory of
    Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

    IACOJ Budget Analyst

    I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.



    • #3
      You guys are killing me old eyes with the lines running with the others.

      Space out some of this, so it is eary to read.

      It all runs together.

      Stay Safe and Well Out There....

      Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers


      • #4
        "What I hope is that we would reach out to people who would not normally be considering the fire service as their profession," said Steve Keller, coordinator of the TCC fire training center.

        Read more: http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/02...#ixzz1DJUyAJb0

        What he means is 'we have too many white men and not enough women and minority applicants, so we'll set up a fire school in the ghetto to drum up some'.

        See how that worked out with the FDNY high school.


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