The third Bridgwater 999 Academy commenced on Thursday 9th January with a prestigious launch held at the McMillan Theatre in Bridgwater. It was attended by senior and high ranking Police, Fire and Ambulance Officers as the new Academy students were welcomed and inaugurated by Chief Fire Officer Lee Howell from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service.
The first Bridgwater 999 Academy was launched by Ruth Burrows, a Uniformed Public Services lecturer at Bridgwater and Taunton College, in 2017. The original concept was created by Responder Manager Rob Horton of SWAST and Ian Dawson, formerly of Devon and Cornwall Police who wanted to create a youth engagement programme for young people to develop knowledge and understanding of the Emergency Services alongside volunteering opportunities and social action.
It has run successfully in Barnstable for the past 9 years and the team is very excited to launch Bridgwater and Barnstable’s new Academies this week.
Previous Academy students have gone into employment within the emergency services and others are training at the moment, such as Star Hancock and Ellis Pearce who are trainee paramedics and Lili Ibbotson and Owen Cheffey who are employed by Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service as on-call fire fighters. All four were students from Bridgwater and Taunton College.
The opportunities offered to the 999 Academy students are unprecedented as they go ‘behind the scenes’ with the all three emergency services as well as have theory based lessons delivered by operational Police, Fire and Ambulance staff. The students gain a hands on approach to the daily duties and requirements of our emergency services and build up close, professional working relationships with the delivery team over the eighteen month programme.
They also take part in many volunteering activities alongside the emergency services such as supporting the Avon and Somerset Mini Police initiative, for example.
The application process for the current Bridgwater 999 Academy was extraordinary this year with over 100 applications from students across the three campuses of Bridgwater and Taunton College. The applicants went through a rigorous process including fitness, dexterity and observation tests concluding with a formal interview with 23 students finally being invited to join.
The evening was introduced by Principle and Chief Executive of Bridgwater and Taunton College Andy Berry with many family and friends joining the excited students to celebrate their success and congratulate them on their achievement.
Ruth Burrows, who developed the Bridgwater 999 Academy, said she was overwhelmed by the response to the application process this year as it shows how important this type of enrichment programme is. She said that the Bridgwater 999 Academy is such an exciting opportunity for those young people who wish to learn about working within the blue light services and equally important as an opportunity for personal development and volunteering opportunities.