Kettering’s fire station 32, located on Dorthy Lane, was recently abandoned as the department built a new station on Far Hills Avenue. No longer vacant and now decorated in silver and blue, house 32 has a new purpose. Fairmont’s Career Tech Center has added a Fire Science program to their already extensive list of course offerings.
The Fire Science Career Tech class is for students attending Fairmont, Oakwood and Centerville who are interested in a career as a Firefighter or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Students in the class will learn about fire, EMT, technical rescue and emergency vehicle operation.
Fairmont Career Tech Center Principal, Liz Jensen played an important role in the creation of the new course. The Kettering Board of Education and local firefighters have also spent years trying to get this class up and running.
In order to add a new CTC program there must be a need for it. There must be space to accommodate the new endeavor, as well as proper funding to run the course. Kettering City Schools met all of those requirements and were able to implement the new program in the fall of the 2017-18 school year.
“There is a huge need in the industry right now,” Jensen said when asked about the career field and why the strong push to add this to Fairmont’s Career Tech Center.
At the completion of this program, students can take tests for state firefighter I and II card and EMT-basic state certification at the end. If students successfully pass all certifications, they will qualify to be a part-time employee at most Fire Departments.
To help prepare the students for the career, they use a hands-on curriculum that sometimes requires outside help and information. Volunteers from Washington Township and The City of Kettering Fire Departments come in and assist the instructor as adjunct teachers.
This allows the students to learn and train with currently employed firefighters and ask them questions about their jobs. It also makes it possible for the adjunct teachers to start preparing the students for recruitment after high school to enter the workforce.
“The adjuncts will also kind of be on the job interviewing the kids,” Jensen said. “Preparing them for the next step.”
Fairmont’s award-winning Career Teach programs are designed to prepare students for employment needs. With 12 different programs, the skills learned help prepare students for the transition to either college or work.
Alex Prater, Fairmont’s Fire Science teacher is extremely passionate about what this program will do for his students as well as the workforce.
“It’s been a long process,” Prater said. “I think that there are a lot of people who are excited that we’re actually here and have our students and curriculum underway.”
Kettering, Oakwood and Washington Township have all donated to the cause and played a critical role in making this new offering happen. The City of Kettering donated the Firehouse that the class uses for lessons, training and simulations. Both Oakwood and Washington Township have donated money and equipment.
Prater feels very grateful for all of the work that the other departments have put into his Fire Science program in Kettering.
“The local fire departments have been great with working with me to make sure that I’m involved and that the students are up to date on local trends,” he said.
Firefighters are a crucial part of a city’s well-being, and right now the demand for highly qualified workers is extremely high.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, (NFPA), only about 30 percent of firefighters are full-time employees, which leaves the remaining percentage to volunteers. One of the goals of Kettering’s Fire Science program is to bridge that gap and prepare male and female students to become sought after, full-time employees for departments in need.
Approximately 7.3 percent of firefighters in the United States are women according to NFPA. Fairmont currently has three females students enrolled in the class with the hopes of growing that number in the future.
Prater is ecstatic with how many female students signed up for the course, especially in its inaugural year.
“The fact that three of the 14 students are females is very exciting,” he said.
Emmaline Meyer, a junior at Fairmont and a member of Fire Science feels very comfortable in the male-dominated environment.
“We have no gap between us, the male and the female students are a team and we just act like there’s no difference between us,” Meyer said.
Meyer is very passionate about women being apart of this career and hopes that this program will draw more interest from other female students at Fairmont and neighboring high schools.
“There has been discrimination against women in this profession, and I think that women should go out and try to pursue this career anyway,” Meyer said.
Fire Science provides a rare opportunity that many school districts do not have to offer to students. With real life, hands-on learning, Prater and his team are looking forward to what this first class will achieve and learn.
“I never thought I’d get to put on an air pack or put on a fire mask. But we’re doing it, and so much more. It’s a great opportunity for anyone,” Meyer said.