On-call firefighters set to make apprenticeship history! - Bridgwater & Taunton College

When Lilli Ibbotson and Owen Cheffey completed their BTEC Level 3 in Public Services and graduated from Bridgwater & Taunton College’s (BTC) prestigious 999 Academy in 2018, neither of them could have known that just three years later they would be part of a group of firefighters who would be making apprenticeship history!

Owen and Lilli will be among six on-call firefighters who will be completing their apprenticeship in April 2021 – the first on-call firefighters in the country to do so.

Owen and Lilli are based at Bridgwater Fire Station. When there was a serious fire earlier this year at the College’s Bridgwater campus, Owen was there fighting it.  The other apprentices graduating are Laura Hutchings and James Lavis from Newton Abbot Fire Station, Thomas Mole at Middlemoor Fire Station and Dan McBride at Torquay Fire Station.

BTC have been working in partnership with Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service since 2018 and have been supporting the Service and the apprentices through their training.

Amanda Charlton, Curriculum Manager for Protective Services work-based learning said,

“These firefighters have been managing their on-call duties, alongside other work, home commitments and their apprenticeship training.  They have all shown incredible commitment and dedication to their programme of learning and we wish them every possible success in their upcoming end point assessments.

BTC Apprentice, Owen Cheffney reflects:

“Working within the fire service has always been a dream career for me. When I passed all the tests and became an on-call firefighter, I was thrilled. Shortly after that I was offered a place on the apprenticeship, which naturally I took straight away as I wanted as much exposure to the job as possible.

The work involved with the apprenticeship can be challenging at times, however the amount of training and studying that I have completed to meet the different aspects of criteria has made me more confident when stepping onto the fire ground. I will take every learning experience with me in my career and constantly develop myself to become a better firefighter. I believe that the apprenticeship has given me a very good base to build myself from and definitely set the standards high. “

Mark Palmer, Quality and Accreditation Manager at Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service has been instrumental in piloting this first group of apprentices. He also worked as part of a team to convince the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to accept adaptations to the funding rules to provide the opportunity for on-call firefighters to complete the apprenticeship.  Mark says,

“This is a really exciting time for not only these six apprentices, but the on-call service nationally. The ability for on-call firefighters to access the operational firefighter apprenticeship and achieve this national standard demonstrates the passion and commitment on-call firefighters give to the community.

I am really proud of all our on-call apprentices. This year has been very difficult for us all but they have continued to develop their skills and gather evidence for the apprenticeship. I wish them all the best for the end point assessment in April.”

Mark Blakey, Quality and Accreditation Officer, who manages the online apprenticeship portfolios, has been impressed with the quality of the evidence provided, especially the content of the learning journals which will support the professional discussion element of the end point assessment. Mark comments:

 “It’s been a real pleasure to be part of this first cohort of on-call firefighter apprentices in the country and personally being able to support the apprentices through their journey”.

His colleague Chris Coxon, Quality Assurance, Learning and Development Officer said:

  “As a fire service we have learnt a lot about on-call apprenticeships and this will help us evolve and streamline the process going forward. I look forward to see how these and the next group grow into their roles.”

For the firefighters, the apprenticeship has provided not only access to a part-time career in the fire service, but the opportunity to receive the same qualification usually only provided to wholetime firefighters. Apprentice James Lavis reflects,

“The apprenticeship is helping to create opportunities for the future, providing a uniformed approach for all and ensuring training delivery is to the same standard throughout the fire service. This created opportunities to work and train with colleagues from other areas of the service which has helped me throughout this apprenticeship.”

Apprentice Laura Hutchings who is also based at Newton Abbot Fire Station alongside James added,

“The apprenticeship has enabled me develop my operational skills to a great standard and build my confidence. I am sure it will support me with my career moving forward.”

Whilst they may take their achievements in their stride, BTC recognises this cohort as the flagbearers whose success will open opportunities for more on-call apprentices across the country.

Find out more at Operational Firefighter Apprenticeship Level 3 – Bridgwater & Taunton College (btc.ac.uk).

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