NINE students from Trinity Anglican College last week graduated from the Rural Fire Service’s 11 week secondary school program – but local firefighters hope there will be many more to come in the next few years.
Southern Border RFS cadet co-ordinator David Turner said the program formed part of a crucial strategy to try and bolster the number of young members and volunteers.
“It’s extremely important for us to be able to go into schools, in the sense that the RFS and emergency services in general are an ageing generation,” he said.
“We need to look at new methods of encouraging young people to volunteer and hopefully enjoy being in the organisation.
“We’d love to go into more schools in the next few years, we’re going back to Trinity next year and we’ve also run the program at Corowa High School in the last few years.”
The program covered many of the areas of training required to become a fully-fledged volunteer firefighter, including fire safety, casualty assistance, radio and equipment use, among various other things.
Participants in the program will only require a minimal amount of further training in order to join the brigades once they are old enough to do so, while six of the nine cadet graduates have joined brigades as junior members.
Trinity’s cadets also performed well at the NSWRFSA Division 13 Cadet Field Days in Holbrook, winning the hose and knapsack relay and communications and navigation exercise on the way to finishing second overall.
The students completed from the program last week, graduating in a special ceremony attended by Albury MP Greg Aplin, Superintendent Pat Westwood and councillor Alice Glachan, among others.
Mr Turner said he was pleased to see the cadet program have such success in such a short amount of time.
“The idea of the program is to explain all the different aspects of the RFS,” he said.
“It leaves them just shy of the level required by basic firefighters, they only have one or two more things left to tick off the be fully qualified.
“Hopefully by the time they finish university or whatever they choose to do after finishing school they come back home and join the ranks of the RFS.
“There are a range of jobs, whether it be as a full member of a volunteer.
“We need young members, particularly in firefighting, to gain experience from the older heads before all of that is lost.
“It’s not just us either, the SES are having similar problems, so if we can encourage young people to get involved in either organisation that’s a huge win.
“We’ll be running the program again next year, hopefully it’ll be bigger and better again.”