Career firefighter recruit session for CFA volunteers

We’re going to go through a little bit of information tonight. Hopefully for the benefit of CFA volunteers, especially and before we do anymore though, I want to introduce, some of you already know him, Operations Officer Mark who’s going to help me with the session tonight. So thank you for taking the time, I know it is tea time at the moment so a little bit of information to go through.

We ran this session for the first time last year. In fact, right about this time, I think at the Fiskville College had a good turn-up so we thought we’d do it again, make it online, and make it a bit easier for people around there who travel to find out about the information. So pretty what we’re going to cover up tonight is the information about the recruitment process we’re in at the moment — those thinking about applying, timing, a little bit about what you need to do preparation-wise. Talking a little bit about the role itself Mark is going to cover up a little bit about his experience — Mark, of course, was a volunteer before he joined the CFA and is now rising in the ranks; we’re going to talk a little bit about that. And also, I wanted to cover up a little bit about the volunteer advantage of being in the recruitment system as well so I want to just cover a few things like that off. We’re also entertaining questions, if any of you have any questions later on, we already got a few sent to us earlier today and yesterday; thanks for that, and we’ll try and cover that off for you a bit later on. Of course it doesn’t just stop with this particular broadcast. If you have any questions, we’ve got our firefighter recruitment email which is a viable online career page and to be honest, at the moment, we’re busy that your best bet to get a response from us quickly is use the email as well. So if you don’t get covered off tonight or any of the information we cover with you tonight sparks some more questions later on, please feel free to give us a ring or email us later on and we’ll try and answer as best as we could and we’ll get on with it. So I know somebody won’t want to go home and have tea or somebody waiting to have tea or somebody waiting for their tea or munching while you’re watching, but we’ll get into it and I guess the first thing is upfront before getting into the process — what are we looking for, why do we have this big recruitment process, and why do we have the benchmark testing we do. One of the reasons is that it’s not like any other role basically, a lot of you are already in a similar role at the moment so you know what I’m talking about in terms of the variety it occurs, the training that occurs and the time of going, and the diversity of the work that you’re going to be doing and so we’re looking for people that are passionate, that are motivated, that brought integrity, and most of all, the community that he orientated. Pretty much that’s the nature of this role and one of the big messages we’re trying to get through over the last few years in particular is the general community’s understanding of the role of firefighter. It’s not exactly how it seems on the news and there’s a lot more to the role, and there’s certainly lot more preventative work thing done with the role now too so we want to emphasize that. And it’s also part of the reason while we have the applicants go through this, not so much of a learning process, but go through a process of finding out about to see who are they, who we are, and finding out about the role so it’s a really good understanding of what you’re getting in for.

The advantage of going in as a volunteer, of course, is you got a pretty good understanding what really — and it’s important to utilize that when you get further in to the process if you do apply later on and we’ll talk a bit about that afterwards as well. Another important factor that you need to have when looking for and measuring for along the way is having to communicate so we’re looking for good communicators, we’re looking for people who are good educators and trainers. Obviously, a chunk of a role is going to be talking to groups, educating groups and assisting them with things like this so I mean one day, you’re talking to a cute kids in school in the morning and then in the afternoon, you might be talking to some elderly people in old people’s home and you’re altering your levels of communication on the way through — there’s little things like that sort of picking up on it and trying to look for all the way through the process. Obviously, you need to enjoy your work as a part of the team and it’s very much a team role, a firefighting role, and every volunteer in every brigade has already that advantage that they’re already part of the team and get used to the team dynamics in how that will work, so that is an important thing we’ll emphasize later on, even when it comes to interviews that you can use to your advantage when we get further in. I guess upfront, you don’t have to be an expert with all of these things because everyone already knows or most of you know, there’s training course provided and of course, there’s going to be a lot of development, it’s not just people who lay things straight away. It can be the three to four of your journey in terms of getting your qualifications to become a firefighter so there’s a lot to it and that’s part of the reason why we have this recruitment process that way we do.

I’m not going to go through a lot about the information that’s up on our webpage tonight because you got that advantage where you can sort of do that yourselves. Most of you got an idea about why we do this and what the levels are; I mentioned that with these sessions because everyone that comes in to the role has to think about that a little bit. Some of you got families who got mortgages. The two big considerations are in that first year in particular, you might be on your own way a lot less than what you’re getting at the moment and you might need to potentially prepare for that so this commitment is there that you have to think about. Of course, tonight, hopefully, we’ll sow some seeds, you might not be ready to apply now but for instance, you might be okay next year or the year after that. So a lot of this is also about timing as to when you’re ready. Part of that is about the nature part of it in terms of understanding that in that first capital years that you’re on a sort of graduation in terms of each of the levels of between the role of a firefighter. So let this something to be looked up online if you haven’t already in terms of not just why you’re on the recruit course because you’re on the recruit way obviously during that period, but also when you go to level one, two, three, and how that feeds with your circumstances so we do ask what everyone thinks about that and how it affects them as well as, obviously, the big issue which is about the relocation and of course that’s often a common question about how all that works and Mike will talk a little bit about his experience with relocation and where he’s been from the station point of view a little bit later on.

Applicants, it is obviously with this Country Fire Authority, we look after Outer Metropolitan Melbourne and Regional and Rural Victoria so therefore we’re looking for applicants who have got that flexibility to work in all our  stations which are growing. In particular, some of those areas where you may have to relocate so that’s a big decision; we understand it’s a big decision. You can involve partners in that discussion, if you got partners or family members, you will need to sort of consider that and think of that through. Some of our kids are in school, some have partners that got really good jobs, so that’s another thing in regards to timing that people do have to think about a little bit before they throw their hat in the ring to have a go at the application process.

In terms of station placements that normally happens about middle of the course, about week eight, and as determined by, obviously, logistical need, is now we have it also in terms of the recruits also submit their preferences when they find out the list of stations they choose from and unfortunately, at the way the structure has been alive and I’m not able to tell people we have the vacancies out at the start of the process. It is something you have to think and we do know that that’s where we’re a bit different than a lot of other services so we certainly recommend you do that and review the list of integrated illustrations that we’ve currently got and even what we’re likely to have so you’ll get a bit of a feel where they are around the state and what impact that might have on you. You might be currently in Outer Metro Melbourne, you might have to move if you go Wodonga or Mildura, or vice versa — you could be in Mildura at the moment or Wodonga, and because of travel, you might have to relocate because of that. It’s definitely something to think about and it’s part of their sort of application system if you like. The education of sort of getting applicants along the way are about these sorts of things and we do understand that there are big commitments here and it does take a bit of thought in terms of when people are really to rock and roll — the commitment just to get through this recruitment process.

So I won’t go through all the integrated stations because they’re up on our website, we’ve got update for few of those but it is something that you do need to be aware of. Just getting to where we’re at at the moment, we opened up applications in February and pretty much just announced that we’re going to close off on Friday 22nd at 5 p.m. So in terms of your thinking, if you haven’t applied yet and you’re thinking about it, next Friday, we’re cutting off. There are ways and place to build this so how we determine it is based on numbers so a lot of you will really know we’re CFA and we’re going to get so much money to spend in regards to how we put people through this process so it is a big process. It’s not really services around Australia where they’re not charging applicants and we want to control and maintain as long as we can. However, I got to be careful with the numbers we have because if we get too many, it’s going to cost a lot to put them through the process so a lot is driven by the number of vacancies versus the number of applicants that are in the process.

To apply, you need to hold a full non-probationary driver’s license and the reason for that is I get a lot of phone calls and we already have one question through in regards to this issue. We do know that you can get a heavy rigid license while you’re being placed and that we are aware of that. The reason for the full non-probationary driver’s license is that it’s one that we give, for instance, to MFB is that when you get stationed depending on what particular stations you’re at, you will be required to drive trucks fairly early on in your career. We’d like to have our applicants and recruits to have a driving experience before they get behind that big red truck. So that’s part of the rationale behind it all, a lot of it is having that experience. Of course, the probationary period used to be three in Victoria and would extend to four a few years back but that’s what’s behind that. The other aspect, you won’t be as concerned with, it’s with permanent residency for Australian citizenship is the other main criteria. One of the other criteria I mentioned early is to prepare to relocate, if you have to, to another integrate station around Victoria. You don’t need the heavy rigid license upfront so you don’t have to go and get your heavy rigid license just to apply; you need to be ready to get it if you get a job offer. So one of the things you could be doing if you think about applying and there’s a little bit of delay in some of the stages, one of the things you can do is investigate your area, who you provide us after the heavy rigid license, how much it costs, and how long it’s likely to go on and get it. Some of you might already have your immediate rigid, some of you might have your heavy rigid — the advantage of being in the scene of fire. So quite of you would have a little bit of advantage over the other applicants and this is something you can prepare about for later on.

So that’s the process and I already told you a bit too much so I’m going to hand you over to Mark shortly but I just want to get through a few things about the application process and the testing and everything as it occurs. I might give you everything else in the CFA — it’s always open to review and there’s a lot of reviewing going on at the moment in terms of how recruitment process and even the recruit course as many of you have heard, the recruit course currently coming out of EMV at Craigiburn. As it stands at the moment, we still got the Beep Test happening which is the very first stage of the process. The reason that is a lot of people ask why is that there and the honest truth is that it’s the cheapest part of their process — the Beep Test. The reason why we run the Beep Test is that we can do it in volume, we measure lung capacity; it’s the only a little bit of science we got in regards to lung capacity and firefighting in what we measure for. And it’s the only way currently that we’re able to do it in a fashion that keeps us the amount of people we have to do it with; for instance, last year we put nine hundred and seventy people through in over three and a half full days.

So that’s why we do that. Nine, six, is the level, I think it’s 43.5 VO2 Max is the lung capacity being that’s measure there. We have been looking at whether we can measure that in different ways, we’re not quite there yet. We’ve been starting doing some measuring of our PAT challenge and that that is the possibility down the track where the equipment we use didn’t quite get us through and so we didn’t quite got enough data yet to introduce but we’re always looking for different ways of measuring that. Second stage of the process and usually on the same day at the moment, is the Aptitude Testing and again, this is something you can be preparing for and thinking about — I don’t know what it was like when you come through…

Mark: It’s the same system.

Mark: Same old thing but you do need to do a little bit of work on it. A lot of us have done this stuff since we’re at school so verbal reasoning, mathematical reasoning, and mechanical reasoning: the three Aptitude Tests that we use in our process. It does take a little bit of preparation if you’re not used to that environment and having to answer questions particularly under time pressure. So we provide some booklets online and we do recommend, and we’re still updating some of those, but we do provide some application booklets. There’s a guide up there online which goes through the Aptitude Testing and gives some sample questions. There’s also a booklet there regarding feasible preparation and there’s also one there that’s a general application booklet. So if you’re thinking about applying, that’s one of the things you should brush up on and prepare for a little bit. If you’re going to study and work back home, your math, your mechanical reasoning and answering questions, you can certainly do some research on that. Test yourselves out, remember to put yourself under a bit of time pressure, just a little bit of time pressure so you’re forcing yourself to think about answering those questions within a thirty-second radius or one-minute radius. For instance, some of the testing is a twenty-minute time period and twenty-five-minute time period so put yourself under a bit of pressure between testing.

There’s a question I’ll answer later on too that came to us which I’ll attend to when we get to the presentation. I’m just talking a little bit about if someone has dyslexia and coping with having to do this sort of tests and I guess I haven’t been asked this in recent times but it has come up before about English and being able to cope with this type of test as well. So I will address that a little bit later on and what we might be able to do there.

At the moment, after you get through that stage, there’s a benchmark in terms of those Aptitude Tests that’s currently set at about a year eleven level. So the reason it’s set at that is so that we know what we would gather on this over the years, we could be using the same testing quite a well — pretty much, it’s to allow recruits to be able to cope with the academic requirements of the recruit course. The recruitment course is obviously a combination of in-class and practical work that’s going to happen. To get through the Aptitude Test, there’s a screening interview. The screening interview is currently and we’re looking at ways and means to make this a bit more streamlined but currently that’s what we do. There are mini versions of the final interview and they’re looking at the basics of your understanding of the CFA, the role, and also how well you handle a couple of behavioral-based type of questions so there’s a shorter version of what happens at the very end of the process. So out of that activity of doing that of course, is getting used to that and handling those sorts of interviews so it’s about the screening and it’s also about that little bit of help for the applicant in terms of what they might expect later on because it’s very similar when they get to the end of the process. If you get through the screening interview, then we’ve got the PAT or the challenge as we refer to it from time to time — the Physical Abilities Test.

We’re currently running at it at Bangholme now; in fact, we just recently rang that out of Bangholme and we had a terrific pass rate. In fact, the last two-three years, the pass rate at our PAT testing has been eighty percent so they really placed that the pass rates are going up. People are preparing and they’re really reading material and they’re doing much better with it than when I first got here. Incidentally too, just so you know, the pass rates on our testing for the Beep Test for the last four years is hovering between eighty-eight percent and ninety-eight percent pass rates. The people that are turning up are confident knowing that they can pass the Beep Test. Unfortunately for the applicant, it’s made that it’s a very competitive process by the time they get through at all. There’s a video we’re going to update shortly that’s been a video at Bangholme, we’ll update that but essentially, at least it’s fairly similar to the video that’s up on the webpage. So if you get through the PAT, you get through that stage and you get to the final interview, I’ll talk a little bit about that in a second.

Obviously, once the interview has happened, then there’s the PAT where we can pair all applicants. This is the little thing that a lot of people are concentrating on the interviews and they put so much emphasis on the interview but it’s not just the interview alone, we’re selecting from and looking at the whole application. You certainly do need to perform well at the interview and what we’re looking at the whole application at that point. And it isn’t until that point that we actually look at that whole application so it is important to think about that on your way through. You need to go through a medical check, we do all the free checks at that point, Police checks including the criminal record check, and at recent times, the driving history check. We are reviewing the driving history check thing that just got introduced last year at the moment so keep a lookout for that on the webpage because that will change I suspect in the next few weeks. So if you get through all those checks and the interviews and you’re through with the application system, then you will get the opportunity to practice for the PAT so we run a practice challenge or practice PAT where we get applicants to come up and do a half day. If you haven’t done it before, we get the opportunity to see how you go; it’s not timed, there’s no pressure, you’re not getting assessed, but you get a little bit of feel for what it’s like. Of course the big advantage you got as being a volunteer is that you already used during practical work that gear. Most of you used to wear BA masks; you’re used to wearing BA on the back, and then coping with practical work and structural gloves while you’re doing those types of activities — that is a big thing that set an advantage above the applicants that had started getting used to that. It always pays to come along to those practice sessions so that you get to do that.

So I reckon I have spoken long enough about the recruitment process just to break it down a little bit for you. I’m going to hand you over now to Mark, he’s going to talk about his experience coming through as a CFA volunteer, about his background as well and also what it’s been like in terms of station placements and working through the structure in the ranks. How many years now?

Mark: Fifteen.

Mark: Fifteen. So I’m going to hand you over to Mike.

Mark: I just want to emphasize the point that Mark was making about the advantage you have as a volunteer. I’ll stress the point that while that is an advantage, we see from time to time, volunteers coming and maybe not prepared as well as they could have, lose that opportunity in ways that advantage do have. So you need to still put in a whole lot of work to get yourself up. It is a competitive field at the moment in terms of positions.

Quick history of myself, I started as a volunteer in 1990 at South Warrandyte and eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Ten years later, I was lucky enough to be successful in getting a position in the recruit force in 2000. There was four ways in those days of recruit course, add on the station in Geelong city so I was posted in Geelong as my first station where I spent about twelve months then moved on to Boronia, then to Morwell, spent some time down there, went back to Eltham and then back to Boronia as a firefighter in those two stations. And I found myself in 2006 working at Fiskville Training College, training recruits so within six years, I was provided the opportunity to actually giving something back to recruit firefighters. From there, I became an officer after doing another assessment, wound up back at Dandenong Fire station for a number of years there on shift. I spent some time there as the acting officer in charge before getting promotion as an officer into District 13 and looking after rival fire stations that transitioned from full volunteer to any brigade. Currently, sitting in the position where I’m looking after the group, covering here from Waranambool to Healesville at the moment and looking after eleven volunteer brigades. So as far as my own way, I’ve come full circle in that I got a career that’s actually now putting back into the area that I actually came from and that’s been a great experience all the way through. The transitioning from being a volunteer to a career firefighter does not run out of challenges. It is a very different role that volunteers play in a career firefighters play or the end of the line role is about that provision of the high level service. Serve the community by operations sense and also Mark has pointed here, the education and community involvement sorts of things. As far as the first element of that recruit course itself, we go in there and ten years of being a volunteer, I have a whole set of skills. I was questioning myself a little bit if I already got these skills, why do I need to learn these skills again and I would say my eyes were opened through that recruit course — yes, I did have some skills but the level of proficiency that I was able to gain here for four years, I’m sure it will add in anyway. The level of proficiency to consolidate those skills, to learn new ways of doing things that I have learned previously to do as a volunteer will put you on a really good stead as a firefighter in your career. So it’s very much as a volunteer taking those skills you got and enhancing those skills and maybe rectify some bad habits that you might have developed over the years to put you in the best place, then going to stations and be part of the team that delivers that service to the community.

We’ll provide some challenges along the way. The teamwork that we develop in that recruit course is something that we put a lot of emphasis on and so if we go through each member of the team, we’ll find some different challenges, the teams to support and they just range everything from a lot of recruit course involved. We have everything from — you got family in terms of visiting if you got the time for the wife or the partner left at home with three young kids, that sort of stuff, and not having their partner for periods of time. Obviously, life doesn’t stop while you’re on that recruit so people get married, people die, and those kinds of things so we’re very flexible here as we need to look after people and manage through that. But different challenges that you wouldn’t just sit there and think about might pop up that provide along that line. Likewise, when I started the recruit course, I was still relatively young, I was twenty-four but I hadn’t done any studies since I’ve been out of school so everything just sinks here break away from study or some get classroom, a lot of high intensity learning so a high volume of information being assessed regularly, having to deliver and practice those skills and refine and become proficient puts a lot of pressure on you. So the longer you’ve been away from study, the more challenge in that can be but as I support a network of people around helps you move through that.

Mark: Were you married back then?

Mark: I wasn’t married back then but my wife now, we don’t sort of just start a relation at that point and my recruit course started when my now-wife’s birthday, the first birthday that we’re together so that provided some challenges.

I suppose that helps the relationship, we weren’t married but we had kids at the time but the element of having kids makes it a bit more difficult particularly if you’re traveling distance. So transitioning out of the recruit course onto a fire station, once again, will provide you a set of challenges. Moving to a new environment might be totally fine and it’s still the same with fire station which you might have been familiar with, obviously through your volunteer involvement but generally, stations are busier, there’s more people, there’s a lot going on, for some applicants, they might not have much experience about little activities and whatnot. So it’s a new environment, it’s a learning environment and it takes a little bit of learning how it works. The environment works very differently to a pure volunteer brigade and have that work and interactions between staff members, between staff and volunteers, between the community and the brigade, and so that’s a bit of getting used to and learning the differences. Through that, it provides some challenges but it would also provide some opportunities maybe to raise some things that you’ve learned and seen or experienced as a volunteer to better the integrated brigade that you’re working at and that ranges from operational things to how to interact with the community and all that. You might have had some experience in your life with community as a volunteer that could actually be transitioned across to the integrated stations that you’re working. One of the things you’ll notice in your transitioning across, particularly, the community is that we at the moment as volunteers are living in that community so you tend to know a lot of people, get involved in lots of school and community groups and whatnot. For me, when I went to Geelong city, I’ve never really lived in Geelong. I’ve driven through Geelong and so you knew a deal about the community and who are in the community and that tie a little bit of time to develop those relationships in the community and working within a ranged structure. As far as my experience from being the first lieutenant of a brigade, it’s very heavily involved in everything that was going on in the brigade. To being a little firefighter in Geelong city, it just took time to realize that I was no longer an officer of the brigade, the role is completely different and the community is completely different and how I interacted with that community just changed. It was a totally different environment, totally different community so all the changes added up. Across the state, integrated brigades and volunteers, we interact differently with the community, because the communities are different so we ended getting more totally different environment and situation therein.

Mark: Sorry to interrupt but you’re just saying that that was an advantage of being a volunteer because you’ve come from a background where you’re already interacting with a lot of communities. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what community it had been, the fact that you’ve got that experience of being a volunteer and at that level, dealing with members of lots of different communities that was really an advantage that you have over those that haven’t done it.

Mark: Yeah.

Mark: Even though you say you got to learn about those communities and the lay of the land and all those sort of things in your area, but you got the basics and a lot of experience has already been there that that’s great being with it.

Mike: Yeah, you’re right Mark. The concepts of what we do and what we can offer, they’ve learned and understand, as a volunteer transition across various places. As far as the key element that I haven’t discussed through is that each of those stations I have worked at, they have volunteers as well so having a volunteer background, be lucky enough to get a full-time decision with CFA, you’re in a best position to be able to work with the volunteers from integrated stations in the brigade you’re in, you understand that mode of action is different mode of actions between why people volunteer and why people do firefighting as a job but having that history and ability to understand that we’re with the volunteers places you in a great position to continue develop that integrated moral to see if they rely on to deliver these services to the community and you’ll get great reward from giving that back to the volunteers who are at your station or the neighboring stations. And you’ll know what probable frustrations you’ll have as volunteers that you can then take some proactive tips to reduce those frustrations as volunteers. I think that’s probably one of the best things that I’ve experienced in my career.

Mark: Can I ask you a question about the course? Now it’s a while back but you have instructed on recent courses and you also coordinated those and, again, that they’re at Craigieburn at the moment and they are on the four-on four-off shoot that’s occurring at the moment so that’s changed a little in terms of length of time from sixteen to sometimes seventeen and eighteen weeks because of the rolling nature of those four days on, four days off. But in terms of the structure of the recruit course, there are lots of questions from volunteers — they’ve already done some training, some accreditation. What did you find challenging in terms of  when you went through the process and when You’re going through it as an instructor.

Mark: The volunteers would come in and find services that people come from. We have a range of competencies, we do often get asked of what we’ll have to pay in doing competencies. The proficiency and the teamwork involved, we have a team of thirty recruits going through together and we garner some consistency and reinforcing those skills — becoming proficient with those skills. Somewhat different to what we have, we train volunteers; we don’t necessarily sit down and do one subject this day and then assess on it. There’s a lot of it woven into all the different aspects so we’ll sit there and talk about a topic but then the assessment in the application is interwoven into practical drills throughout the course. So it’s probably a different style of how we teach and assist those competencies but benchmarks us at a level and make sure that everybody is at the same level. For those who have done some competencies maybe some time ago, refreshers would bring them back up the speed a hundred and ten percent. We have that benchmark that as recruits leave the training course, they go out to stations with an absolute standard that we maintain. The team work out on the livelihood, I can’t emphasize enough in their environment too with those members of recruits who have had previous experience actually do help out those maybe learning from scratch along the way. So there’s large amount of attainment there and the development of the skills to become proficient is enforced as well.

Mark: Okay. We might cover a couple of questions asked because you’re probably getting bored listening to our voices so we’ll answer a couple of questions that have come through and then we’ll just cover off a little bit about a couple of topic I just wanted to go over which is what are the advantages of being a volunteer in our recruitment process. If you don’t have any questions tonight as I’ve mentioned earlier, if you do get them in, we’ll cover them off here and now but you’re always welcome just to email or give us a call and we’ll try and answer them for you as best as we can.

One of the questions here is, “Am I still eligible if I need to wear glasses to apply?” I guess the answer there is that we have firefighters who wear glasses. It depends on what the nature of the eyesight is used; I’m not going to be able to answer that. In fact, most of the medical questions, we really can’t give a definitive answer because it’s depending on the nature of it, it’s a medical professional that’s going to do that so an eye doctor would get a definitive answer. I will say though that it depends on the nature of why you’re wearing glasses. We do have a few firefighters that are wearing long-term contacts so what I suggest is if you’re aware of what your eyesight issue is — in the interim, if you’ve applied, you’ll go to your optometrist. If you’ve never tried long-term contacts before and you think that might be something that that’s something that might be asked if you do happen to get in, that’s something you can investigate in the interim to find out whether or not you can deal with those. Unfortunately, it’s not the time to be putting in contacts when you’re racing to get on the track and get out to cold so you need to be onstage at all times, ready to go.

Another question that came through as well is, “What are the causes that would strengthen my application?” I guess the easier and quicker answer is, not in terms of the application system, but it’s a very basic criterion in order to get into this system. However, you see if they’re training or any particular course that you do that are relevant to this role, it’s always going to be beneficial. So whether it’s something that’s very similar to what you’re going to be doing with the course and you’re comfortable doing that particular module or that particular topic on the course, it’s one less worry that you have there. It’s going to be a benefit, it just doesn’t mean, in any regard, that it will strengthen your application and the reason being, as well, is that there’s already a lot of time and effort put in to this recruitment process. We understand these people have to take days off their work; they’re going to go see their doctor to get a clearance for participating in the physical activities. You need to have some money ready in case you need to get ahead and get your license if you still don’t have it so you can get reimbursed with that but you still have to have it upfront. So there is a strong commitment here so at one scene at the moment, we don’t want people going off and paying for causes when it’s not currently required. It doesn’t mean to say though that they’re on the track. In the future, maybe in some way, they become qualified in this regime with their getting through this course, who knows what happens down the track in a few years, but the way it is at the moment, that’s how it looks.

Another question came through was about someone that had dyslexia — it’s a good question, actually. They want to see if we can offer alternative methods to persistence and that sort of thing. Currently, we’re not set up for that in terms of the recruitment process; here’s a question that’s also relevant to people who have English difficulties generally as well. As you know through the chief and through the CFA general in the last two or three years, we’ve been quite strong in trying to attract diversity into our volunteer and also into the greater role and we’re slowly starting to make some inroads there. One of the things I think, at the end of track, we do have to look at is coping with this problem as it’s set up at the moment. We don’t offer any special assistance. My suggestion to someone that has those difficulties is to apply first, give me a ring or let us know if they ended up front — issues like this, we’re not that mean. If we can do things separately and because of some English difficulties or some dyslexia issue, we want to know what that is first and then we’ll be able to determine where we go to from there. Of course, it’s not just about the recruitment process, it’s also about how those people or person would cope on the recruit course and what support mechanisms would be in place for that, and then of course on the job. So a lot depends on the nature and the level of issue regarding dyslexia or for that matter — English, but there’s certainly things from the CFA perspective that we need to think more about and do more about in terms of encouraging people to have a go at this role. But as it stands at the moment, because we don’t have much setup in regards to that ongoing listings, so not just for the recruitment process but also on the cause and then on station and the role, it’s a bit hard to offer up a lot of additional help for that at the moment. My suggestion would be to put your application in, ring me, email me, and have a go with it. If I’m aware of it and you’re coming in on the day, we’ll do whatever we can to make it as comfortable as we can for you and let’s see where you’re at, you actually might surprise yourself — you might do quite well. The three Aptitude Tests for instance, there’s multiple tests involved with diagrams for mechanical reasoning and with the mathematical and verbal reasoning. There’s a lot of reading however, it just depends on the nature and the level that you’re at. You got one there.

Mike: Yeah, I’ll jump right in. The question is, “Do you need to be a career firefighter to become a member working in a course?” The simple answer is no for the non-operational role. You need to be around District headquarters and then see if our headquarters are built with ease. There are a number of roles that are fulfilled by non-operational people and they range from HR teams to media and the whole organization in terms of community safety, I can go on and on. But it seems to be there’s a whole lot of those roles that are filled by operational people and so I’ve been on the flipside and out the operational role. So operations offices and office managers and assistant chief officers etcetera, are all operational ranks which at this stage, the defining career path is through becoming a firefighter and from time to time, we’re able to feel some of those positions as us officers in some areas that does go external. So there are limited opportunities from time to time for people who are coming in at that level and that operational stream that has a whole range of other jobs that are non-operational, that are advertised through, and you can on our page or website outside the career firefighter stream.

Mark: Yeah, and I guess to give a plug for our website, most of the volunteers also exist in the internet but in particular, you’ll see the section for volunteers and careers, you got a section there for volunteers, section for career firefighting, but there’s a general section for anyone who’s interested in applying for regional roles. So you can be kept up to date by looking at that website and also, if you got access there, you’re going to have a little bit of  people news which will serve as a good way of assessing out what jobs are available around the state including in here. From time to time, it’s quite a number of jobs viable — probably not as many in recent times as there have been previously but of course there are also seasonal issues there as well where they offer you opportunities to work over the summer season so keep your eye out for some of those as well.

Someone also sent us a question that they’re a current applicant and have been waiting where they’re at at the moment and asking if they should apply in before the May 22nd cut-off next week. Here’s a first instance where you need to find how you’ve gone. It’s a bit of individual answer that depends on the nature of what it was. It used be, when I first got here, that when people get through the whole process, they have to wait twelve months before they could reapply and I didn’t see the need of that because you don’t need twelve months all the time to turn things around. So a lot depends on what it is and it’s a bit of an individual thing so particularly, this week and next, right up until the 22nd of May, we’ll start interviewing again, believe it or not, on the 22nd of May for the next course. So please feel free to ring me, I’ll have an individual discussion with you on that note and I apologize for this because I think, over the last number of years since I’ve been here, we used to provide quite comprehensive feedback at the end of these processes and unfortunately, in the last couple of courses, that struck the way and it’s purely bane because we just truly hadn’t had the time and resources to deal with the amount of feedback we have to give because of the number of people coming through. Having said that though, anyone that rings and gets me on the phone, usually while they got me on the phone, I’ll grab some information and try to give them some feedback about how they’ve gone. We do restrict that usually to the first time through, my reason being is that our main function is to recruit. We try and help develop people as much as we can on the way through but our primary function is to recruit so there’s a limit to how much I can give in regards to developing and nailing some of these things. There’s a certain amount of merit that still needs to occur with applicants but it’s a good question. In short, give me a ring and if you think it’s advisable that when you apply again, you’re going to come and have something fresh to offer, and then I’ll be getting in quickly. At this stage, it’s hard to tell when we’re going to work — after we close on the 22nd of May — a lot depends on how many courses we’re running next year and also how many we’re employing, and also how well we do with the actual current pool coming in so it maybe an opportunity to work it up again towards the end of the year. We like opening up the database when it’s closer to the start of the course, we don’t have to make applicants do all these various Beep Tests over and over because it’s going to take a long time. Having said that, we open up in February, it was sort of the direction to do that so that’s where we’re at at the moment.

“So how much feedback can you give on each stage?” As I said, usually, when you get a bit of feedback from us — in fact, I gave a couple of people that rang me today a little bit of feedback about their interview, at the same time, I gave the opportunity to talk about how they went with their challenge, what time they’ve got — it’s always good to know that stuff, the pacing, if you have to do it again. So usually, if you get ahold of me, that’s what we’ll give them, the time they got on their challenge.

Usually, if you restate on your Aptitude Testing, we do recommend that you give us a ring when you come in again so you’ll have an idea what you need to concentrate on. So in a lot of that has been one test they need to brush up on. We usually recommend doing all three tests again because you might lift the scores of the other two to help your total score to roll up. Unfortunately, we haven’t formulized the final interviews as much as we used to and I do apologize but it’s purely because we’ve been busy. We’re literally finishing course three processes at the moment. We had got in the way with four processes of interviews next week, a hundred and twenty interviews for that and in the interim, we’re still running or finalizing attraction strategy for courses for 2016 so it’s been a pretty full-on period for us. Once we can sort of clear through with this, we’ll try to do things a bit differently, reviewing stuff at the moment so that we can clear the way because I actually do like giving you a bit of feedback — it makes it more efficient for us as well as the candidate. It just depends on the nature of the stage that it happens. Sometimes, if you get a little bit of feedback at this challenge stage if you’re already done with the screening interview as well, it’s very general sometimes to probably concentrate on a couple of areas.

We want to cover up just a couple of things as the nature who’s at the listing and part of the purpose for running the information session tonight was about encouraging volunteers to apply. There are a few mid-set there that we had to break time debunking last year with our volunteer session at Fiskville and I just want to go through a couple of things first. There are definitely some informal advantages to being a volunteer and applying for the role here in CFA. You don’t see it formally in the application process but they are definitely some advantages. I guess the first thing as I mentioned before in terms of physical testing, you’re familiarity with using CFA equipment in turnout gear and also in a hurry, when under pressure, which is simulated in that challenge that is timed, you’ll have a great advantage with that. The other advantage I have as well as being volunteers is that you can practice for that on the station. One of the things that can’t be done by a lot of the applicants that aren’t volunteers is that they’ll be able to do that. A lot of volunteers where I came from go and do some shifts on stations and experience the role for themselves so they would feel the ups and downs of the role. We do encourage everybody to not just look at the positive stuff but also at the negative stuff. You get a bit of opportunity to do that if you can do shifts on station. A lot of our stations do terrific work with running information sessions. You got the advantage of not just going to those but also speaking directly to career firefighters; you’ll know where the stations are. If you don’t know any career firefighters, you certainly got contacts within the brigade to put you in contact with people who can then refer you on to talk to some firefighters to find out about the job, the ups and downs and everything else. So that is a really good advantage you’ve got being a volunteer, there’s also the advantage we’ve spoken about earlier in regards to the training that you’re already undergoing — it’s a great advantage. To do the module and nature training that you’ll be doing as a volunteer member will put you in a good state for the cause and yes, there are criticisms and lots of questions around; why can’t that same accreditation be used and therefore reduce the time in the course, who knows down the track, it may not come to fruition but what can I say, but that’s definitely an advantage for volunteers to be able to use their experience on the recruit course as well. I guess the other little thing that is a great advantage to being a volunteer to those that aren’t volunteers, and I guess this also applies to other volunteers is that the experience you’re gaining as a volunteer is no different than what you get at work.  I know that this is going around the last few years about not saying too much about being a volunteer in the final interviews, don’t mention it too much. The reality is we encourage you to use your volunteer experience in the interview situation. The experience you’ll get as a volunteer is as close as you can get to being a career firefighter, why wouldn’t you use it? You’re working in teams, you’re working in pressurized situations, you’re gaining skills that a person like me who sits by the desk all day and talks on the phone or only does things like this isn’t getting and it’s your advantage. If you’re in a job where you might be working with computers during the day, you might be in a job where you’re on your own but on your brigade, you’re working close in a team, in a crew, you’re dealing with a variety of different issues, you may be proceeding the kids at schools, you’re gaining lots of skills and really developing your attributes that put you in good state so why wouldn’t you use that experience in interviews? So when it comes to these behavioral questions in interviews, we fully encourage you that if you fall short a little bit because of the job you might do, for instance, you might sit behind the desk like me and you don’t get to get out there and do some things that you do as a volunteer, pick the best one for you. If you’re example is better as a volunteer, use it. Anything we do, say to some people, is not to use broad examples in a final interview because that’s a bit of a different dynamic and different motivation so definitely use your experience as a volunteer in the final interviews. Don’t do it for every question but there’s no harm in, where it’s best for you, using that volunteer experience in that viable process.

Career firefighter recruit session for CFA continued

I reckon we’ve covered off and we’ve probably spoken a bit too long but we’ve covered most of it. Some of  you, if you do have any questions, please feel free to email us directly on and there’s also the phone number in the system as well and also when you run at the stages or come along with some of the sessions that we run as well, we just finished running one at twelve the other night where I attended, we ran another one in Mildura, and previously in Bangholme and took pride with it, we ran one here in Wodonga, so we’ve been getting around the town as well in the last couple of weeks.

One of the questions, “Will there be any changes to the three-strike rule in the future?” just coming through. And the way that works by the way, to be honest, any real reason we got the three-strikes rule is because the cost associated with putting people through this recruitment process. It costs a bit of money to pay to put you through the test, believe it or not, at each of the stages so we had to put a limit on it. At the moment, it’s three strikes at any of the stages so for instance, three goes at the Beep Test, three goes at the Aptitude Test, so you can file a couple, come in, pass that one then fail another couple so you can still have six or seven applications. We have firefighters that if you ask them, sometimes it has taken them that long to get through for different reasons. So that’s the way it works, you could still have multiple applications, it’s three strikes for each of the stages. So the short end to reach at this stage, if we do change the process down the track and we are reviewing a lot of stuff about our recruitment sort of activities and processes at the moment, it could change. If ever we did go down the track like they do with MFB and the Police and everyone else where individuals pay for their aptitude testing for instance, I’m not going to say that three strikes and you’re out; if you’re paying for it, you can do it as many times as you want. A lot of it, at the end of the day, is about being responsible about the budget with doing this stuff. At this stage, it hasn’t changed but it may in the future, depending on what we change. For instance, if the testing totally changes then we might clean the slate and go, “You haven’t done this before, come in and have another go.” It just, again, to have a fair answer, that’s pretty much where we’re at at the moment and that’s the reason behind it. Is there anything else you want to add?

Mark: No. We’ve covered all that I have in mind.

Mark: Yeah. We’re hoping that there’s a few more out there. The thing about them is probably there are a few of them that have already applied that are watching in. If you have been thinking about it, I guess the thing is, and we say this at all sessions, if you’re not ready to apply now, that’s no big deal because this is about you and it’s about timing of this thing and you’ve been ready for it. So if you’re not ready this year, it might be next year or the year after but when you come in, give it a good go and all the best with it. I guess thanks very much for tuning in and I’m hoping we might see you in one of the activities a bit later on in the year or next year. Alright, good night and thanks for joining us for the Career firefighter recruit session for CFA

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Nothing contained in this post is to imply any endorsement from the CFA or it’s representitives.

Brent Clayton

After becoming a Firefighter, I developed a massive interest in the Fire Services Recruitment and Selection Processes. I've been working since 2007 to learn everything about how Fire Services Recruitment works. I've tested and refined proven methods to help people get the edge over the competition. Today, over 100 of my former students are living their Firefighter dream.

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