Firefighter, EMT cadets graduate from Ohio program aimed at boosting diversity
The Columbus Division of Fire program launched two years ago to provide more opportunities for women and people of color
The Columbus Dispatch
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A Columbus Division of Fire program aimed at boosting diversity among the ranks of city and central Ohio firefighters has seen its first class of cadets complete training.
On Wednesday, 17 cadets graduated from a two-year program in which they earned certifications to prepare them for careers as firefighters or emergency medical technicians.
The cadets — 14 men and three women, many of them people of color — were recruited by the Columbus Division of Fire for the program with the help of Columbus churches, nonprofit organizations and other city departments.
The program was the idea of Mayor Andrew Ginther when he was a member of Columbus City Council and Safety Director Ned Pettus Jr. when he was the fire chief. Ginther has tasked Pettus with doubling the diversity of the city’s public safety forces in both the fire division and the Columbus Division of Police with a $1.4 million investment to train the initial 40 cadets between both agencies.
At the Columbus Division of Fire, 91% of its firefighters are white, 6% are black and 1% are Hispanic. Only 40 of the division's nearly 1,600 firefighters are female.
The goal of the fire division training program is to provide training to people of color and women to prepare them for the civil service testing process to become firefighters and EMTs. Historically, those who are successful in the civil service testing process have a history of employment in the fire departments of other cities or townships, a background that often eludes marginalized communities, Pettus has said.
Though the cadets train toward the state's firefighter certification requirements, graduates of the programs are not guaranteed jobs. Instead, they must take the city’s bi-annual civil service test, apply to become a Columbus Division of Fire recruit through the Civil Service Commission, and successfully complete a 34-week fire training academy.
Of the program's first class of graduates, five have been hired by the Columbus Division of Fire — a man and a woman as full-time firefighters, and three men as recruits. Ten others have been hired by suburban fire departments throughout central Ohio.
(c)2021 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)