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  • Bridging the Age gap

    Greetings Brothers and Sisters,

    I am currently writing a presentation for my Captains promotional exam, and hoping I could get some feedback here. One of the topics is to identify a current challenge to our department. One that I have noticed recently is the growing number of younger employees. I think its great to have fresh blood in our department, but I do notice, being the grievance procedures guy for our Union, that young guys are getting into hot water much more than the rest of our rank and file. One exception to the rule is firefighters that have a military background.

    So my thought here is to address ways i can help to bridge the gap between our newer personnel, and the ones that have been around for a while. There is some lack of discipline, respect and sometimes just common sense. I'm not looking for answers, but more along the lines if any of your departments have the same kind of issues, or if there are resources you make have come across with information on this topic.

    Don't get me wrong, I think new blood in the department is a great thing. They come into our department with fresh ideas, up to date training out of an academy, and usually a hard charging attitude. I just want to be able to help pass along the other things such as tradition, discipline, and help them to understand the other facets of the job.

    Thank you in advance.

    Solidarity,
    Jason

  • #2
    1. Assign a caring mentor to each new hire

    2. Attend what use to be called interpersonal dynamics class at the national fire academey and learn how all the generations are different

    Also learn how the generations react and Learn differently

    It is an eye opener

    I learned why my daughter is the way she is
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZdEH...e_gdata_player

    Comment


    • #3
      We have a mentor assigned to newbies as they enter the department for the first year or so to help guide the newbie as part of the orientation program.

      Seems to work great and helps to keep the younger generation out of the naughty chair.

      I think the reduction of fires (due to all kinds of things namely smoke detectors and public education) has the biggest impact on the younger generation, and even my generation. This help to support the entitlement attitude of the new people coming in.
      Jason Knecht
      Firefighter/EMT
      Township Fire Dept., Inc.
      Eau Claire, WI

      IACOJ - Director of Cheese and Whine
      http://www.cheddarvision.tv/
      EAT CHEESE OR DIE!!

      Comment


      • #4
        one thing that is often overlooked is not the "problem" with the younger guys, but the lack of senior firefighters to step up into the senior man role. A lot of departments have lost a significant portion of their experienced members to retirement. These were guys that went to a lot of fires and saw a lot. They were guys that were really strong "seniormen". There are companies or departments that don't have that seniorman that keeps things running smoothly as well as teaching younger members, and then people wonder why the new guys are having problems.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by nameless View Post
          one thing that is often overlooked is not the "problem" with the younger guys, but the lack of senior firefighters to step up into the senior man role. A lot of departments have lost a significant portion of their experienced members to retirement. These were guys that went to a lot of fires and saw a lot. They were guys that were really strong "seniormen". There are companies or departments that don't have that seniorman that keeps things running smoothly as well as teaching younger members, and then people wonder why the new guys are having problems.

          Yes...I agree.
          Jason Knecht
          Firefighter/EMT
          Township Fire Dept., Inc.
          Eau Claire, WI

          IACOJ - Director of Cheese and Whine
          http://www.cheddarvision.tv/
          EAT CHEESE OR DIE!!

          Comment


          • #6
            Each group has an "official leader" and an "unofficial leader". Many times the "official leader", i.e., the company officer is somewhat insulated from the rest of the crewdue to the amount of duties hey perform. The "unofficial leader" role is usually filled by the senior man.

            This however can pose a dilemma... if the senior man has an attitude, that will be reflected down to the rest of the group, including the probes.

            Some of the attitudes come from the attitudes of the official leaders, especially those who are booksmart and have certs up the wazoo, but have little or no experience in dealing with people, let alone fires. You also have the official leaders who forget where they came from.
            ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
            Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

            Comment


            • #7
              The last couple of generations have a different attitude to life

              Is it wrong, probably not, do some us understand them , yes and no

              For some of the older people , we had the same problem, when they said ""what do they see in that rock and roll music, I don't understand it"""

              Just need yo understand the different generations, how they think, and their attitudes towards life
              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZdEH...e_gdata_player

              Comment


              • #8
                And.............

                Jason, Here's hoping that you ease into that Promotion with no problems. One thing in your post that jumped out at me was the comment about those with Military experience being the exception. I agree. I have noticed the same thing, and to go one step farther, Kids from Families with "Career Military" Dads are the same way. I also find that Young folks who are following a Family Tradition in the Fire Service also behave differently. I know this is a touchy area, and my remarks are not meant to agitate, but there also seems to be a certain group that think that they are "Owed Something" because of their Status in life, either Racial or Economic, or both.

                If I were asked to take steps to ensure that "Rookies" were somewhat more respectful, (I guess that's the right term) I'd start with the recruitment process by making sure that recruitment material is very plain in explaining that this type of work is different, more of a way of life than a Job, and that certain attributes in an individual may be highly sought after while certain others are detrimental.

                I would also respectfully offer that the Training Academy may need to adjust the program to more of a "Military" approach. While we all know about attracting more Flies with Honey than with Vinegar, I've also found that the Honey will also attract the occasional Bee. This is the place to sort out the Bees from the Flies. Or, to put it another way, If I'm ever going to have a Rookie say "I ain't doing that" I'd rather have it happen at the Academy than on the Fireground.

                Best Wishes on your Career........
                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.

                www.gdvfd18.com

                Comment


                • #9
                  I'm one of "younger generations" that you guys speak of. One thing is with your average new firefighter coming in with some "education" (Outside Academy, EMT, Fire science degree, etc) it changes the attitude of your incoming probationary firefighter. They feel like they already have some experience and knowledge, which they probably do. I'm not talking experience in terms of real world experience, but in terms of they do actually know some stuff. It can seem like they have a chip on their shoulder, like something is owed to them. This is where it becomes difficult, because on entrance, you don't know how much this new firefighter actually knows. If you treat them like they don't know anything, they can get disrespectful, because they feel disrespected. If you give them too much "freedom," you seem like a weak leader. Firefighters with military experience don't seem to have this issue because they have been through a similar experience already. They realize they have to prove themselves, and not everything is handed to them. If I was a new guy, which I will be in a year or two, I would like to see the CO sit down in a meeting on the first day and pretty much say "Hey, you are new here, and lowest on the totem pole. That doesn't mean you are worthless, but you have to prove yourself that you are valuable. It may take awhile for the crew and you to "mesh." Through this time, the crew is figuring you and your abilities out, so they know how much they can trust you. Lives are at risk everyday here, and until the crew knows they can trust you to have their back, and you can trust them to have your back, things may seem like you are worthless. Be patient. The quickest way to earn their trust is to listen to what they have to say, and respect them, they have been through the same thing." I realize it is really hard for the older generation to "connect" with the younger generation(s). I thought maybe a viewpoint of one of the younger ones would help.

                  P.S.- I wrote this really quickly and it may not be very clear, so if something doesn't make sense I will gladly clarify.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    To paraphrase Mark Twain, "When I was eighteen, I couldn't believe how stupid my father was. When I turned twenty-one, I was amazed at how much that man had learned in three years."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by CGITCH View Post
                      I'm one of "younger generations" that you guys speak of. One thing is with your average new firefighter coming in with some "education" (Outside Academy, EMT, Fire science degree, etc) it changes the attitude of your incoming probationary firefighter. They feel like they already have some experience and knowledge, which they probably do. I'm not talking experience in terms of real world experience, but in terms of they do actually know some stuff. It can seem like they have a chip on their shoulder, like something is owed to them. This is where it becomes difficult, because on entrance, you don't know how much this new firefighter actually knows. If you treat them like they don't know anything, they can get disrespectful, because they feel disrespected. If you give them too much "freedom," you seem like a weak leader. Firefighters with military experience don't seem to have this issue because they have been through a similar experience already. They realize they have to prove themselves, and not everything is handed to them. If I was a new guy, which I will be in a year or two, I would like to see the CO sit down in a meeting on the first day and pretty much say "Hey, you are new here, and lowest on the totem pole. That doesn't mean you are worthless, but you have to prove yourself that you are valuable. It may take awhile for the crew and you to "mesh." Through this time, the crew is figuring you and your abilities out, so they know how much they can trust you. Lives are at risk everyday here, and until the crew knows they can trust you to have their back, and you can trust them to have your back, things may seem like you are worthless. Be patient. The quickest way to earn their trust is to listen to what they have to say, and respect them, they have been through the same thing." I realize it is really hard for the older generation to "connect" with the younger generation(s). I thought maybe a viewpoint of one of the younger ones would help.

                      P.S.- I wrote this really quickly and it may not be very clear, so if something doesn't make sense I will gladly clarify.
                      Wow. Maybe the next generation isn't as bad as we thought....good post.

                      Want an application?




                      Actually, I do sit down and have this conversation with all the newbies coming in. Seems to work great and our retention rate is higher than others I think. It's a mutual respect thing. I give everyone the same amount of respect and credibility, like a clean slate type of thing, until you prove to me you cannot handle yourself or handle responsibility.
                      Last edited by Dickey; 10-30-2010, 12:43 AM.
                      Jason Knecht
                      Firefighter/EMT
                      Township Fire Dept., Inc.
                      Eau Claire, WI

                      IACOJ - Director of Cheese and Whine
                      http://www.cheddarvision.tv/
                      EAT CHEESE OR DIE!!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Dickey View Post
                        Wow. Maybe the next generation isn't as bad as we thought....good post.

                        Want an application?




                        Actually, I do sit down and have this conversation with all the newbies coming in. Seems to work great and our retention rate is higher than others I think. It's a mutual respect thing. I give everyone the same amount of respect and credibility, like a clean slate type of thing, until you prove to me you cannot handle yourself or handle responsibility.
                        Yes please, I can hook you up with my address. Seriously, you seem like a great guy to work for. (Is my nose completely brown yet)

                        In the fire service it is very difficult to delegate responsibility on the right level. Unlike a business, its not money or products we are dealing with where if a mistake is made it can be "replaced." When you give a probie too much responsibility and he makes a mistake and a life is lost that possibly could be saved, that "mistake" can't be recouped. The best thing you can do in any situation is learn from mistakes and don't make the same mistake twice, its just when the mistake costs a life where it becomes difficult. It is some serious trust to tell a new firefighter to start life support on someone and you don't completely know their capabilities. Is it difficult to delegate the responsibility, yes, is it necessary for the new firefighter to learn ,yes. It just becomes difficult when mistakes that are made and learn from involve lives.

                        But seriously Dickey, I'll take an application.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by CGITCH View Post
                          Yes please, I can hook you up with my address. Seriously, you seem like a great guy to work for. (Is my nose completely brown yet)

                          But seriously Dickey, I'll take an application.
                          Ok ok....pull out, I taste metal!!



                          You gotta like to drink beer, eat cheese, and anything deep fried?
                          Jason Knecht
                          Firefighter/EMT
                          Township Fire Dept., Inc.
                          Eau Claire, WI

                          IACOJ - Director of Cheese and Whine
                          http://www.cheddarvision.tv/
                          EAT CHEESE OR DIE!!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Dickey View Post
                            Ok ok....pull out, I taste metal!!



                            You gotta like to drink beer, eat cheese, and anything deep fried?
                            Yes, Yes, and Yes. I can start monday

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I have had the same experience with military backgrounds as opposed to non-military. I also have noticed that anyone who's seemed to had to do any truly demanding job outside the FS before being hired have a better work ethic. I attribute this to the fact that many younger guys/gals have little appreciation for how "easy" we have it compared to other jobs. Sure we have much higher instance of injuries and deaths than the typical day jobber, but other stresses are lessened in many career FD's.

                              This job is easy in many ways, though "easy" may not be the best term. Is going to work and not knowing exactly every step your day will take, better than putting your time on an assembly line for weeks, months and years on end? While most workplaces require you to be fully productive 95% of the time, with supervisors checking your work in a detailed manner, we must remain in a constant state of readiness for very demanding physical work that could happen at anytime during a tour. This requires that our schedules be a little more relaxed than the typical day jobber. Most FD's enjoy longer breaks and fewer menial tasks to "keep busy" as we'll likely be working in the streets while the rest of the community sleeps.

                              Back to the real topic, the age gap. Military personnel have worked in a very structured environment that most FD's aspire to, but don't quite require the same level of structure. Most veterans while annoyed with similar things as their non-veteran counterparts, understand rules are rules and somethings that suck are still part of the overall mission, thus fail to grieve these issues.

                              For these reasons we typically would rather hire veterans or more mature individuals who have some life experience under their belts, as they seem to appreciate this job with less attitude.

                              Comment

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