As I sat at the hospital awaiting the birth of my daughter, a conversation that I had with a coworker in the previous days came to mind. The conversation revolved around what are you doing do train your replacement. Over the prior few days that conversation took my thought path is several directions.
First of all, the usual connotation of training your replacement is normally reserved for training those who are next in line to assume your job role. Are you using empowerment to the most potential possible to guide the learning of those who will follow in your footsteps? Are you teaching them the how’s and why’s of the role? Often we take for granted the lessons we have learned and forget to share them. Reflect back and make them a list of the things that you wish you knew before taking on the role you are training them for. I challenge you to also make of list of your five biggest accomplishments and five biggest failures while in that role. The accomplishments aren’t to boast, but to encourage what is possible. The failures will hopefully provide them with some lessons learn to improve their understanding of the role.
Is your agency or yourself working to find your next generation? What do you do for recruitment? On the paid side, this may involve job fairs, ad campaigns, and social media. As the trend shifts back toward vocational trades, this may help to appeal to a larger, albeit sometimes nontraditional hiring pool. Maybe even offer a sample job related PT test to prospective applicants, aside from CPAT prep. The recruitment process can be much more complex than just posting a job add and see who applies. In the volunteer service, there is certainly no secret that volunteerism is down and the amount of available free time for most everyone is limited. The SAFER Grant program offers some options for volunteer recruitment and retention. Use these grants to provide outside training, for a change of pace and chance to gain skills and knowledge. Revisit the traditional drill night and see if it fits with the membership’s schedules. When feasible consider a makeup training for those who may have had conflicts. Recruit membership at civic clubs, churches, and other gatherings. Paint a picture of what your department does for the community. Show them that the fire service isn’t only fighting fire and rolling hose.
Finally, what are you doing to train our society’s next generation? Whether it be your children, nieces, nephews, cousins, or youth groups. They are watching you and want to learn and will immolate you. Progress and growth is a matter of teamwork. Teach them this. Teach them that their will and determination matters in accomplishing a goal. The reality of course is, everyone cannot be a winner. Demonstrate to them a positive work ethic. Nobody is perfect and we will all have made mistakes and had failures along the way. So the same as the person taking your role next, share this with the younger generation. They will appreciate you and do well because of it. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child. If your department or station has lost a family atmosphere, bring it back. Have family gatherings, retirement parties, promotional parties, picnics, or outings. Make it a fire service family again.