COVINGTON, Ga. - Covington Fire Department partnered with Newton College and Career Academy to create an internship program for high school students interested in a career in public safety.
Through the internship program, rising juniors and seniors will become certified in National Emergency Incident Management and CPR. Students will receive hands-on basic training as firefighters and first responders as well as receive experience in emergency medical services.
Students will not meet the qualified hours to become a certified firefighter, due to the age restriction, but they will receive basic life skills for future endeavors.
“One of the things we’re trying to do is be involved in the community more,” CFD Fire Chief Jeremy Holmes said.
Holmes added, “I understand that we may not produce very many firefighters from this program, but what we want to do is reach them with our core values and instill some values into the student, so they can be young community leaders.”
CFD Fire Marshal Jonathan Fuqua envisioned a future where high school students, who go through this program, can become firefighters upon graduation. The age requirement to become a certified firefighter in Georgia is 18 as of Aug. 1.
“My vision would be to lower the age of live fire to 17 to where these students can go through our program for two years and come out Firefighter I, and in the summer between their junior and senior year, become EMT basics,” Fuqua said. “That way, when they graduate high school, they can put in and be certified, and a fire department can hire them. That would be my goal.”
Not only will students gain experience in public safety through the internship program, but they will also gain knowledge in administration, such as how to write a business memo, a resume and how to resign from a job.
“They may come here and decide that ‘I don’t really like the firefighter end of it or the EMT,’ but at least they will have been exposed to all those skills," CFD Accreditation and Support Services April Draper said.
Draper and Fuqua attended the 2019 High School Fire and EMS Cadet Program Symposium, a program that introduced teenagers to firefighting, in Texas to gather information for the CFD’s internship program. Through the information gathered at the cadet program, Draper and Fuqua were able to create a lesson plan for the 2019-2020 Newton County school year.
Holmes approached NCCA with the ideas for the internship program. Not only did he want to educate students in public safety, but he hoped the internship program will help young people become more comfortable around public safety officials.
“I want the community - young people - to think of the fire department as a safe place … as a place that they can get good advice from,” Holmes said. “That they will get help no matter what they are dealing with.”
NCCA Youth Apprenticeship Coordinator Debra Lary welcomed the internship program into the school's curriculum, knowing that it would give the students, who are passionate about public safety, the opportunity to start their career.
“It’s not just a job,” Lary said. “It’s going to be life-changing for the student. It’s going to give them a career.”
To Lary, the difference between a job and a career is the concept of "long-term." A student can work multiple jobs over the years, such as a cashier at McDonald's, but the student will stay in their career for years, building relationships and their resume.
“The thing that I love about this internship with the fire department is these kids already knowing their passion and love and their goal is to become a firefighter,” NCCA Principal and CEO Chad Walker said. “Rather than doing a work-based learning (program) or doing something that’s not in their field, being able to do this internship gives them a year or two years of experience prior to graduation.
“It’s a win-win for the fire department, who is going to be getting a workforce. It’s a win-win for the kid and their parents because they are doing what they’re passionate about. If anything we can do is get them into something they are passionate about, the sky’s the limit. That’s what I love about this internship.”
For the 2019-2020 school year, three NCCA students will complete the pilot CFD internship program; however, in the future, Holmes hoped the program will grow to 15 to 20 students.
Deputy Chief and Fire Marshal Joe Doss stated that “as the program evolves, we’re going to grow with it.”