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NFCC set to introduce “pioneering” Direct Entry Scheme

16 August 2022

NEXT MONTH, the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) is set to launch a Direct Entry Scheme enabling those from a variety of sectors with proven leadership skills to apply for station manager and area manager roles without needing to have Fire and Rescue Service experience or to have undergone the traditional firefighter promotion route.

A recruitment campaign will begin in September through appointed recruitment experts at Reed Specialist Recruitment. Those recruited to the roles will be expected to acquire, develop and demonstrate skills and expertise in management and command functions as set out for their role in the nationally agreed applicable role maps. Development will be enhanced through a nationally designed, co-ordinated and quality assured process.

Although direct entry is not a new concept, this is the first time there has been a national, robust and quality assured direct entry programme. The primary aim is to provide a different route to entry into the roles of station manager and area manager alongside the more traditional firefighter route that can play a valuable role in diversifying senior management across the Fire and Rescue Services.

Ten Fire and Rescue Services from across the UK have signed up to join the pioneering pilot and self-fund a direct entrant. Those Fire and Rescue Services intending to adopt the scheme are Oxfordshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, East Sussex, Avon, Leicestershire, Greater Manchester, Royal Berkshire, Hertfordshire and North Wales. All are Fire and Rescue Services who put public service and inclusivity at the forefront of their thinking and view the two as being inextricably linked.

New perspectives and experiences

Direct Entry Scheme project executive Rod Hammerton observed: “We hope that the Direct Entry Scheme will draw new perspectives and experiences from the brightest and best who might not ordinarily have seen a career in the Fire and Rescue Service as being open or attractive to them.”

Hammerton continued: “Being a fire officer is a tough job at times, but it’s also a hugely rewarding one. I’m excited to see who puts themselves forward for this fantastic opportunity. Direct entry isn’t new to Fire and Rescue Services, but launching this latest initiative in a way that creates a supportive cohort right across the country very much is. The response from those Fire and Rescue Services wishing to be ‘early adopters’ has been overwhelming and I’m confident we will be able to offer a compelling proposition to candidates from across the whole of the UK.”

Dawn Whittaker, project executive for the Direct Entry Scheme, added: “Many of the leadership skills required to run a modern Fire and Rescue Service are not dissimilar to those required in other sectors, with people, financial, partnership and commercial skills to the fore. By diversifying those in our more senior roles we can invest in the future of our sector. Those individuals already involved in the Direct Entry Scheme are doing just that.”

Proven leaders

Fire and Rescue Services will benefit immediately from the skills and experience of proven leaders from other sectors as they build their operational competence. The Direct Entry Scheme is designed to be both additional and complementary to existing progression routes within the sector, complying with all existing Terms and Conditions, but doing so in a new and innovative way.

The Direct Entry Scheme is just one of a number of projects being delivered by the NFCC’s Leadership Programme, which is designed to support Fire and Rescue Services staff in moving through their careers at a pace that suits them. This includes a recently launched Coaching and Mentoring Portal and the Talent Management Toolkit, as well as a Supervisory Leadership Development Programme. The latter is expected to launch next month.

The Direct Entry Scheme project was launched to address some of the recommendations made the State of Fire Report issued by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services, which states: “To provide the best possible response for members of the public, Fire and Rescue Services need to be able to choose from the widest talent pool possible. That pool is currently restricted, with many people feeling excluded.”

White Paper

The recent Government White Paper endorsed the work of the Direct Entry Scheme project, noting: “The NFCC Leadership hub is leading a project on the Direct Entry Scheme at station and area manager level, as well as developing a coaching and talent-focused culture. This is a welcome development and should be supported by all Fire and Rescue Services.”

Since inception in 2020, those involved with the Direct Entry Scheme project have engaged widely with stakeholders, duly creating a stakeholder consultation in 2021 to understand any barriers to success. There should be an assurance that the Direct Entry Project Board has a credible, quality-assured product for the fire sector, developed in conjunction with Fire and Rescue Services.