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Degree apprenticeship helped fire service manager produce research with real world impact

Research by a fire service officer who completed a degree apprenticeship at the 香港六合彩资料 will make real changes for retained on-call firefighters in West Sussex.

Gary Ball, an area manager at West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (WSFRS), took on a four-year apprenticeship achieving a BA (Hons) in Management at the university, with a final-year project looking at how the service could attract and retain on-call firefighters.

鈥淵ou cannot operate the fire service in West Sussex without the on-call staff,鈥 Gary explained. 鈥淲e rely on on-call firefighters to just drop what they鈥檙e doing and get to the fire station within four minutes to respond to an emergency. It鈥檚 a post-World War Two model but people鈥檚 availability has changed quite considerably since then. People do not necessarily work in the villages they live in as people are commuting more to work. We need to do something to make it more flexible and attract people who maybe haven鈥檛 considered it in the past.鈥

Gary鈥檚 final project looked at a new approach for on-call retained firefighters 鈥 which feeds into the fire service鈥檚 strategy going forward.

鈥淚t lined up quite nicely with the areas I am responsible for in WSFRS, looking at on-call retained duty systems within West Sussex.鈥

He surveyed members of the fire service 鈥 and was appointed to the National Fire Chiefs Council 鈥 so had access to 40 other fire and rescue services to see how they manage the retained service.

鈥淚 looked at people鈥檚 reasons for joining and leaving. In West Sussex, it is driven quite financially because of the cost of living and of course people wanting to serve their local communities,鈥 said Gary.

鈥淒oing it through an academic body gave the project more credibility. It definitely helped get people more engaged with it. We had a 65% return rate on the survey, and I ran seven focus groups in person.鈥

The research gave recommendations on new contract agreements, renumeration packages and flexible arrangements for retained firefighters. It has been discussed at the fire service scrutiny committee and will inform the service鈥檚 future strategy.

鈥淚t will improve their experience coming into the fire service, flexibility, wellbeing, doing the job while mitigating the impact it has on their personal circumstances.鈥

Gary shared how taking the course has impacted his career, and said: 鈥淲hen I joined the course, I was in middle management. During that time, I鈥檝e been promoted twice. I think the university pathway I took was absolutely pivotal to my career progression. I can combine my lived experience with academic research in leadership and business management which helped me progress.

鈥淵ou get to look at other sectors, so you鈥檙e not blinkered by your own. 聽You鈥檙e working with people at different stages of their career and there鈥檚 a diversity across industries, from looking after a factory to running a care home to working in the fire service. You鈥檙e learning the skills that are sometimes overlooked when you are progressing in your career, like strategic financial management or human resources when you鈥檙e looking after a lot of people.鈥

Gary was the first in the fire service to take the course, and now WSFRS is looking to explore putting more of its staff through the apprenticeship.

鈥淚t will benefit the service,鈥 Gary said.

David Goodman, Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Management, said: 鈥淭he benefits of integrating learning and work are clearly illustrated through the project Gary has done within the fire service.

鈥淎s a teaching team at 香港六合彩资料 we are committed to develop our students and apprentices far beyond basic skills and we focus on providing individuals opportunities to expand their knowledge alongside critical thinking. Through approach this we believe students can thrive in their organisational lives, in times of change and uncertainty, and I think Gary typifies this. His own development within this project highlights the different he is making to his team and within the wider fire service.鈥

To find out more about the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship, visit:聽 /degree-apprenticeships/course/chartered-manager-degree-apprenticeship/

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