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by the NFCC

Drivers for change

IO7: Attracting employees

In 2008 the government published its ten year equality and diversity strategy. It cited two success factors for recruitment:

  • Recruitment of minority ethnic employees is at the same percentage or higher than the representation in the working age population
  • Recruitment of women in the operational sector is at least 15 per cent and rising

The strategy was developed under a Labour government and was not supported by the 2010 Coalition government. Currently there is no national strategy focused on equality and diversity in the fire and rescue service.

Today, women make up just over six per cent of the firefighter population (although the number of firefighters has dropped from just over 43,000 in 2008 to 32,700 in March 2019).  The proportion of firefighters from an ethnic minority group is 4.5 per cent compared with 14.6 per cent of the English population in the 2011 Census. 

The LGA published its Fire Vision 2024 in February 2018 and stated the ambition that by 2024/5 30 per cent of new firefighter recruits nationally should be female. The LGA also state that in each fire and rescue service both frontline staff and staff as a whole should reflect the ethnic diversity of the community they serve. 

Fire and rescue services have been recruiting wholetime firefighters in recent years. This follows a period of up to ten years where there was little or no recruitment by services across the country. Recruitment approaches have embraced the need to appeal to all sections of local communities with some services reporting high number of women applicants. Indeed, in Gloucestershire, the number of women firefighters now stands at 15 per cent, the highest by far of any service in the country. 

On call recruitment has been historically difficult particularly in rural areas. The NFCC and government invested in an on-call recruitment campaign that has allowed local services to use national assets to create modern imagery in social media environments to reach people who may never have considered the fire and rescue service before. 

HMICFRS notes, “We were pleased to find that most services in tranche 2 are considering workforce diversity when planning and carrying out recruitment campaigns. Expanding the pool of people services can recruit from increases the talent they can access”. They go on to commend services that are exploring apprenticeships as a way to invest in and develop the workforce.