Prior to becoming an operational firefighter, Francesca spent 10 years working as a prison officer. She completed her 15-week firefighter training course in December 2019. She is completing her Level 3 Operational Firefighter Apprenticeship whilst working as part of the crew at Wallasey Community Fire Station.
I wanted to continue in an active role but was looking for a new challenge. The fire service had always appealed to me as it is working with the community, working as part of a team and making a difference.
I love the sense of belonging. You feel like you are part of something special. You have a close bond with your colleagues and your community. When we go out in the community doing fire safety awareness and prevention, or responding to fire calls/incidents, we always receive a positive response and their cooperation. It's definitely a change of pace from 10 years in the prison service environment.
The training course is organised very well, giving the right balance of classroom learning to practical experience. The trainers offer their help outside of the scheduled training hours, encouraging you to be honest about your progression so they can assist individuals accordingly. The importance of team work is instilled in you from the first day.
I can honestly say through the apprenticeship I feel I have broadened my knowledge on subjects that I may not have touched on had I not been guided by the process. It has encouraged not only the apprentices, but also the experienced firefighters on station, to refresh knowledge and drill on the exercise yard preventing skill fade.
I have enjoyed the pace of learning the apprenticeship brings. Each development stage builds on your knowledge and experience from the last. The activity logs allow you to reflect on jobs you have been to, get feedback from your officer in charge and make a note of learning points on how to possibly improve or try a different approach next time.