Getting Answers: recruitment strategies to combat firefighter shortage
AMHERST, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Across our region, there has been a shortage of firefighters, forcing local departments to come up with innovative ways of recruiting new hires.
The issue is not just here in western Massachusetts. Amherst Fire Chief Tim Nelson told Western Mass News that this is a nationwide issue, and he knows people are out there who are meant to join this field and make a difference. It is just a matter of finding them.
“This is the best job in the world,” Chief Nelson said. “We just need to do a better job at letting folks know that.”
It has not always been this difficult for Chief Nelson to recruit new hires.
“If we had advertised for two positions, we would get 30, 40 applicants,” he said.
Now, he told Western Mass News that they may only receive 12 applications for the 6 current openings within the department.
“There’s not the urge to do the public safety thing,” he said.
Chief Nelson explained that some of the openings are due to recent retirements, but it is not just in Amherst that they are feeling the pressure. Just last week in Agawam, they announced a need for more firefighters.
“We’re all kind of dipping into the same pool, and that pool is shallow,” he said.
Chief Nelson and his staff are now thinking outside the box to attract new hires to the public safety field by posting graphics to social media explaining why firefighters and paramedics alike enjoy their work, along with a fun fact.
Chief Nelson’s fun fact? He played a football game in middle school against Hall of Fame Quarterback Joe Montana.
“They kicked our butts, and I will never forget my coach at halftime saying, ‘Would you get that Montana kid? Come on, get him!’” Chief Nelson recalled.
He told us that the new strategy is working.
“They’re generating a lot of buzz,” he said. “You have to be a little different and innovative.”
He added that being innovative includes connecting staff members directly with the next generation of public safety workers.
“Some of my personnel are instructors, out there teaching,” he said.
They are also offering benefits, including paying for recertification classes and paying for time off.
Chief Nelson said that if the shortage continues, it will mean more work spread across each plate, but he would rather recruit more people to gain a worthwhile experience.
“This is the best job in the world,” he told us. “It really is. There’s no other job in the world where complete strangers will invite complete strangers into their home because they don’t know where else to turn.”
If you’re interested in applying, you can do so on Amherst’s town website.
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