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Chief fire officer reaffirms diversity commitment for Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service 

21 April 2021

IMPROVING DIVERSITY is a great opportunity for Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service “and we will become better”. That was the message from Oxfordshire’s chief fire officer Rob MacDougall when he spoke to county councillors at their Cabinet (ie delegated decisions) meeting held on Tuesday 20 April.

MacDougall said: “Improving our diversity will make us an even better service that’s able to listen to its communities and provide the best solutions to keep them safe. We want to become an employer of choice for the parts of our community where we are currently underrepresented, whether in terms of gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. We also want to attract people who will bring a diversity of life experience and a diversity of thought to the Fire and Rescue Service.”

He continued: “This is not tokenism. We want the best people to join our teams and, for that to happen, we want to appeal to our whole community. If we increase our diversity, we will not only better understand the issues that our communities face, but we will also be able to find better solutions. In turn, we’ll be able to enhance community relationships and deliver the right service that meets the community’s needs.” 

MacDougall explained that the Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has had to adapt its already improved community recruitment activities because of social distancing requirements resulting from the pandemic.

Taster days – which previously offered people an opportunity to experience what it means to be a firefighter or a member of the fire prevention team – are not possible at present. However, MacDougall’s team is developing plans for virtual information days, allowing residents to meet firefighters online, ask questions, watch presentations and videos and therefore gain an understanding of what’s involved and how to apply.

Ongoing recruitment campaign

MacDougall outlined that there’s an ongoing recruitment campaign for on-call firefighters, while also focusing his attentions why it can be difficult to recruit people from underrepresented groups in more rural locations. 

“Firefighters need to live or work close to their local fire stations such that they’re ready to respond to emergency call-outs. This further limits the potential people we can recruit from and makes it even more important to make sure that everyone in these areas understands the amazing opportunity and experiences that come from being an on-call firefighter.”

Further, MacDougall observed: “Our teams will be working in these communities as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Our ongoing campaigns will help us to build a more diverse workforce.” 

Over 8% of Oxfordshire’s firefighters are female. That’s slightly higher than the 7% national average, but again MacDougall is determined to improve that statistic. “Some of our female firefighters and LGBTIQ+ colleagues attend our recruitment events. They’re active in their communities, sharing their experiences and breaking down outdated perceptions of firefighters as being exclusively well-built males. This couldn’t be further from reality. Modern firefighters rely on technical skills, endurance, great communication and teamwork to do what they do.”

Rewarding career 

In conclusion, MacDougall noted: “Fire doesn’t discriminate and neither do we. If people want a rewarding career as part of their local firefighting team then we want to hear from them.” 

Businesses are being asked to allow employees to become on-call firefighters. Participating organisations often find that such employees enhance their employer’s reputation by giving back to the local community, while the employees themselves gain important business skills. 

*Further details are available on the employee section of the national on-call website