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Developed and maintained
by the NFCC

Where we are now

IO7: Attracting employees
Fire and rescue services as employer of choice

The costs of fire and rescue services are predominated by the need to employ skilled and highly trained employees. Of a total service cost in England of £2.1bn the pay bill is £1.62bn. This represents 77% of the total costs of the service. But it is recognised, that some people who could work within the service still do not see it as an employer for them. This includes many women, ethnic minorities and people from the LGBT communities. This is limiting the base from which the service can recruit and reduces the range of experience that can enter it. Addressing this issue must not be seen as additional to achieving the improvement objectives in this business case, but as fundamental to their delivery.

In some respects, the attitude towards the fire and rescue service is reflected in the media and in society at large. The general popular view of the service is projected as largely about response. And that to respond you only need to be extremely physically powerful and fit. There is also a huge public misconception of the level of complexity within fire and rescue services; the level of professionalism required and, or the diversity of opportunity that working within a fire and rescue service presents.

The fire and rescue service is often portrayed as a rather basic, manually focused profession where some quite burly (usually white) men bravely undertake some demanding physical tasks. Young people are constantly exposed, virtually from babyhood, to stereotypes that perpetuate these myths. The current public representation of firefighters and the fire and rescue service is not just insulting to those who are not represented as they should be. It is an insult to everyone associated with the service, whether they be an Employer or a professional within it.

Fire and rescue services, National Employers (England), the LGA and the NFCC have all been working hard, as has the independently chaired Inclusive Fire Service Group, to challenge the status quo. But changing these deeply held perceptions will be a challenge for all leaders within fire and rescue services. Although on occasions firefighters do have to undertake difficult and physically demanding work, widening the scope of work undertaken and being further involved within communities in those wider areas will ensure old perceptions do not live on and assist in recruiting and retaining a more diverse workforce.