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National Fire Chiefs Council launches Direct Entry Scheme project

19 April 2021

THE NATIONAL Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has unveiled details of its Direct Entry Scheme (DES) project which has now been launched. The DES was commissioned through the NFCC Leadership project alongside several other initiatives designed to support the development of leaders within the sector and will be led by two project executives: chief fire officer Dawn Whittaker (of the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service) and chief fire officer Rod Hammerton (from the Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service).

This will be the start of an 18-month project which will see the design and development of the scheme ready for recruitment in September 2022. 

According to the NFCC, this is “an exciting time” to introduce a national DES as part of a broader range of options for attracting people to the sector as the journey focused on transformational change continues.

The DES will be a framework to support people entering the sector at station and area manager levels to undertake operational roles that align with the existing role maps. It will be a nationally agreed programme that’s robust, quality-assured and credible. It will be centrally co-ordinated and supported at a national level, even if it’s delivered at a regional and local level. This enables the scheme to be overseen nationally and provide consistency, which is essential for sustainable success.

It’s envisaged that the station manager programme will last for three years and the area manager programme for two years. The programmes will be designed to give an attractive and compelling proposition to a broader range of candidates with existing leadership experience outside the sector who might not have normally seen the Fire and Rescue Service as a prospective career.

The DES project will be designed to be both additional and complementary to existing progression routes to ensure that the NFCC continues to help nurture and develop internal fire sector staff.

Several national schemes

Nationally, there have been several direct entry schemes delivered in the sector, but they’ve varied significantly and this inconsistency has produced mixed results. There’s some valuable learning to be drawn from those schemes, suggests the NFCC, the first of which occurred back in 2004.

There are national issues around sustainability and succession planning of leadership in the sector. In the 2019 ‘State of Fire and Rescue’ report, HMICFRS concluded that there was “a lack of diversity among leadership” and encouraged the sector to consider the identification of the most talented and capable leaders available. The current predominant singular route to leadership does not enable different people with different skills acquired elsewhere to join and enhance/enrich the fire sector in operational roles. By introducing the DES, the NFCC believes that it can broaden the diversity of thinking and experience across the sector.   

The NFCC has listened to the worries and concerns about such schemes and wants to reassure colleagues that the organisation will apply a robust and transparent process to the development phase wherein all of those involved will be able to have their say.

The NFCC comments: “Communicating with the fire sector is fundamental to this project, and we’ve already completed an initial stakeholder analysis. Direct Entry Scheme Workshops have taken place with those involved in the national Leadership survey, and this is something we want to continue.”

Business case benefits

The business case identifies many benefits for the fire sector in introducing such a scheme. They include:

*a national robust, credible, quality-assured programme with an opportunity for a local and tailored solution

*the introduction of different leadership styles and a difference in thinking to augment and strengthen the sector’s leadership

*an accredited and consistent sector scheme for direct entry

*a cadre of fully competent area managers and station managers assessed to agreed national standards

*central management to ease the burden on local resources

*central training models with local rotations and the application of learning

*the increased diversity of applicants for posts

*improved numbers of applicants for leadership roles

*an enhanced reputation with external stakeholders

*an enhanced reputation as employers