CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — A lot of places are struggling to find employees and applicants, but fire departments are not seeing that problem.
We told you earlier this month the Champaign Fire Department hired nine new firefighters, but first they have to go through a couple months of training. The firefighters have to undergo a training course in Champaign at the Illinois Fire Service Institute. When they’re done, then they get to move on to their career.
“Our job is to help firefighters do their work through training, education, information and research,” Chief Jim Keiken, Director of the Illinois Fire Service Institute, said.
The Illinois Fire Service Institute is training future firefighters throughout Illinois and even throughout the nation.
“Everything that a fire fighter would need to know, we have instructors and teams of people across the state and across the country that deliver that kind of training,” Chief Keiken said.
This year, they have their biggest class ever.
“This is really exciting for us. This is the largest academy that we’ve had in the history of the institute. We’ve got 50 firefighters from across the state including Iowa,” Chief Keiken said.
The firefighters will go through a seven week academy. Then, they have additional classes that run up to nine weeks. Those courses are necessary to reach final certification. They are also regularly evaluated.
“At the end of each week each skill that they’re taught during the week, then they’re graded and evaluated at the end of the week on those skills and we have to be able to pass those skills and pass every step provided by them in order to do that skill,” Tom Shubert, Associate Director for Firefighting Programs at the Fire Service Institute, said.
The firefighters learn basic skills like putting on their gear, using the hose and more.
“You have to constantly hone your skills to be good at your skills because you never know what’s going to happen and you never know when you’re going to need those skills,” Shubert said.
Then as they grow their skills, they go through real life scenarios to prepare them for their departments.
“The biggest thing that we do is that we take people from the start of their career and give them all the training and education they need to be successful to the end of their career,” Chief Keiken said.
Trainees don’t always have to come to Champaign. The Fire Service Institute also journeys to other departments throughout the state to help train.