Compassion and composure under pressure make for an ideal emergency services officer, write Ben Pike and Cara Jenkin
RECRUITING campaigns for emergency services personnel across the country have raised the profile of police, fire fighters and ambulance workers, attracting potential recruits.
Targeted police campaigns in South Australia, Queensland, the Northern Territory, Victoria and New South Wales aim to bring in 7300 new police officers by 2016.
Expected strong employment growth for both ambulance (5.4 per cent) and fire and emergency personnel (3.9 per cent) over the next four years also is making being a public defender a more attractive career option.
Emergency service employees in SA work on average 38 hours a week compared to the national average of 41 hours.
Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council human resources manager Judy Gouldbourn says most people are attracted to emergency services because it is a chance to make a contribution.
‘‘ Apart from being a physically active job that is far from deskbound, there is also the fact that it is community orientated and highly regarded by wider society,’’ Gouldbourn says.
‘‘ Usually recruitment agencies like to take people who have a little bit of life experience as they are generally better prepared for what they may face.’’
Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency chief executive Jon White says as well as there being variety in policing occupations, every day is a new day on the job.
‘‘ The choice is there to work with youth, diverse communities, join the air wing, forensics and other services,’’ he says. ‘‘ As a police officer you accumulate these series of experiences that continually refresh over your career.’’
The State Government has a target to recruit an extra 313 police by 2016, on top of natural attrition.
SAPOL Human Resource Service Acting Assistant Commissioner Superintendent Ferdi Pit says like most major employers, SAPOL always needs new staff to replace those who retire or move on.
It generally has monthly intakes of new recruits who all must undertake the initial training to become a constable, which takes about two years, regardless of what job they seek in the police service.
Once they’ve reached the rank of constable, officers can apply to study courses to give AVERAGE AMBULANCE AVERAGE FIRE AVERAGE POLICE Contact each service. www.achievemore.com. au; www.samfs.sa.gov.au; www.saambulance.com.au them the skills to move into positions, including leadership, forensic and prosecution.
‘‘ We look to recruit, at a minimum, 175 people per year,’’ Pit says.
Unlike many other careers, training for roles is provided through the police service, with a Year 12 qualification or equivalent the only educational pre-requisite to apply for a position. But applicants do have to meet physical and psychological criteria.
‘‘ Policing is not an occupation for everyone,’’ Pit says.
‘‘ The big attraction for joining police . . . is that the opportunities are endless. Patrol work is a very exciting and rewarding experience and from there you can move into anything from forensic sciences, fingerprints, ballistics, crime scene investigation.’’
On-the-job benefits include being able to work with stateof-the-art equipment and being rostered shifts that can help with work/life balance.
Like many other health services, SA Ambulance Service has experienced rapid growth in staff numbers in the past 10 years, with the strongest growth of the state’s emergency services of 56 per cent.
It recruits extra staff depending on government funding and its staffing structures now are under review.
Paramedics require a Bachelor of Health Sciences (Paramedic) to be employed by SA Ambulance Service in its annual intake, then complete an internship and regular training days to remain accredited.
Other workers can complete certificate qualifications to be employed as patient transport officers or emergency medical dispatch support officers.
The Metropolitan Fire Service usually is inundated with applications when it recruits for fire fighters about every two years.
Learning and Development Department Metropolitan Commander Peter Button says the MFS can receive more than 1100 applications that is reduced to a shortlist of about 100 candidates. ‘‘( Being a fire fighter) is a chance to give back to the community. The work conditions are great . . . the camaraderie on shifts is great,’’ Button says.
‘‘ We find many applicants already know someone within the service and hear that the employment conditions are great.’’
Rostered shift work is an attraction.
‘‘ But it’s one of the most respected professions in Australia,’’ Button says. ‘‘ Fire fighters get to do a worthwhile job, protecting the state.’’
Fire fighters start with a six month probation period which includes a 14 week recruit course. For the first six years of their career, they progress through the ranks and undertake compulsory study to become a senior fire fighter.
Further study to achieve a promotion, such as to full-time station officer, is voluntary.
SAPOL Eastern Adelaide Local Service Area police officers Jane Tan, Rhett Davis and Ty Melville (pictured on cover) enjoy the work.
Tan, 35, a crime prevention officer, was an interpreter before seeking more variety in her work. ‘‘ It’s great because we do a variety of jobs, can go into different sections and we meet lots of people,’’ she says. Constable Davis, 25, was a storeman before seeking good job security and a career path in the police.
Former lab scientist Melville, 26, a probationary constable, also sought a change.
‘‘ I was looking for career satisfaction, opportunity and training you can get during your career that you can hold on to for life,’’ he says.