Home Opinion Is College Education Pushing Away Entry-Level Emergency Services Personnel?

Is College Education Pushing Away Entry-Level Emergency Services Personnel?


By Dr. Randall Hanifen
Contributor, EDM Digest

Today’s children are seemingly often forced toward college by their parents and instructors. Hence, students believe that if they do not have a college degree, they will not get a good job.

However, many emergency services, especially fire departments, do not require a college degree. In fact, many high school programs are tied to a career and technical school, which is often portrayed as a lower-status option for those who cannot make it in college.

Does this mentality force our entry-level candidates past emergency services programs? How can we change this way of thinking?

Convincing Students to Explore Emergency Services Fields

This subject came up when I met with a group of college fire program administrators. We discussed how to deal with the many openings that will arise in the next 10 years in the majority of fire departments in the country. One idea was the use of videos to show the excitement of careers in the emergency services field. Other ideas involved developing an educational program for fire department personnel to visit high schools and show what working for the fire department involves and poster campaigns for high schools.

Will we be able to attract the best personnel to make the next leaders of the profession? After all, we are a profession that derives our chiefs from the firefighters of yesterday.

However, if we try to steer young students away from college, how do we re-engage them after they have completed their technical training so that they might develop needed college-level thinking to rise within their organizations and make informed decisions?

Randall Hanifen Dr. Hanifen serves as a shift commander at a medium-sized suburban fire department in the northern part of the Cincinnati area. Randall is the CEO/principal consultant of an emergency services consulting firm, providing analysis and solutions related to organizational structuring of fire and EMS organizations. He is the chairperson and operations manager for a county technical rescue team. from a state and national perspective, he serves as a taskforce leader for one of FEMA's urban search and rescue teams, which responds to presidential declared disasters. From an academic standpoint, Randall has a bachelor’s degree in fire administration, a master’s degree in executive fire service leadership, and a doctoral degree in business administration with a specialization in homeland security. He is the associate author of “Disaster Planning and Control” (Penwell, 2009), which provides first responders with guidance through all types of disasters.