Creating New Career Opportunities in Fire Service

In early January, the California Firefighter Joint Apprenticeship Committee (Cal-JAC) began the second wave of the Cal-JAC Academy, a training program that provides qualified candidates a direct path to fire service.

The Cal-JAC Academy gained statewide attention in 2018—recognized as the first ever firefighter pre-apprenticeship model in California. The first class of 18 cadets graduated in June 2018 with remarkable success: All 18 passing the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) on their first attempt. Due to the academy’s success, California’s Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) passed legislation to offer Cal-JAC a grant for a new wave of candidates in 2019.

Aimed at diversifying the fire service demographic, Cal-JAC and its partner agencies launched extensive outreach and recruitment efforts to identify economic and social-economic barriers that limit an individual’s probability of pursuing a career in fire service. As a solution, applicants with demonstrated financial need will receive tuition-free academy training through the program. Candidates accepted into the program receive training to complete the entry-level fire service physical and written requirements, while earning their EMT certification. All books, supplies, uniforms, courses, test fees, childcare and transportation costs are covered through the DIR grant.

“The end goal is to ensure that fire departments have a diverse pool of quality candidates working throughout the state of California,” said Yvonne de la Peña, Executive Director of Cal-JAC. “We’re working to eliminate barriers to give individuals the opportunities and resources to pursue a career in fire service, who might not otherwise have the means.”

After a rigorous two-month assessment and interview process, 29 candidates were selected for the second pre-apprenticeship class. The new class consists of individuals from a wide range of ethnicities, backgrounds and nearly 40% are women. To enhance the training experience, this class will receive hands-on training from mentors dedicated to the success and development of each cadet.

“Mentoring is crucial in developing a group of apprentices,” said Brian K. Rice, CPF President. “This allows cadets the opportunity to get one-on-one training, ask questions and gain firsthand knowledge from professionals of what it truly takes to become a firefighter.”

Those who successfully complete the program will graduate in June and are placed on the Firefighter Candidate Testing Center’s Statewide Eligibility List, which more than 80 California fire departments use when it comes time to hire.

“The Academy is an important step toward Cal-JAC’s mission to diversify and expand career opportunities in fire service,” said de la Peña. “As the new Cal-JAC Academy begins, we want to continue promoting the pre-apprenticeship model throughout the state.”