We have talked about the significant differences in the outgoing generation and the incoming generation. We have noted the change from the industrial age to the information age. In this blog, I will discuss the differences between technical skills and soft skills and the debate as to the one you should hire and promote for.
The fire service is a highly technical profession that requires the attainment of state certification in both fire and emergency medical services. In addition, some organizations need certifications in fire inspections, hazardous materials technician, and technical rescue. All told, the certifications can take 3-4 years of solid schooling to obtain. In addition to the certification, the need for experience applying the skills is necessary, as many of the courses cover just enough to get you started in that area of expertise. Much of the fire service profession is based on continual training and involves much of the typical firefighter’s day. Because of these facts, the hiring of personnel based on their technical competency appears to be a natural fit.
While the technical skills make up much of the firefighters skill set, you need not go far to find firefighters in the news for poor behavior, fire service leadership articles talking about the inability to motivate the typical firefighter, thus one would wonder, why you would hire these individuals and how you can test to ensure you get the best employee in terms of attitude and drive. Both of these are soft skills.
The debate will continue beyond my career, but a few thoughts. Can you afford to limit the pool of applicants to only those with all of the certifications? Unlike a business degree, firefighting certifications only work in one job and the general public does not go to school to see if they want to be a firefighter, thus the pool is very limited.