NFCC to launch pioneering Direct Entry Scheme

National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) is set to launch a Direct Entry Scheme. The scheme will enable those with proven leadership skills, from a variety of sectors, to apply for Station Manager and Area Manager roles without needing to have fire service experience or without needing to have taken the traditional firefighter promotional route.

A recruitment campaign will begin in September through appointed recruitment experts at Reed Specialist Recruitment Ltd. 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.

This development will be enhanced through a nationally designed, co-ordinated, and quality assured process. Although direct entry is not a new concept, it is the first time there has been a national, robust and quality assured direct entry programme.

The primary aim of the scheme 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 part in diversifying senior management in fire and rescue services. Ten fire and rescue services from across the UK have signed up to join the pioneering pilot to self-fund a direct entrant.

Those services intending to adopt the scheme are Oxfordshire FRS, Staffordshire FRS, Shropshire FRS, East Sussex FRS, Avon FRS, Leicestershire FRS, Greater Manchester FRS, Royal Berkshire FRS, Hertfordshire FRS and North Wales FRS.

Direct Entry Project Executive Rod Hammerton said: “We hope that the 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.

“Being a Fire Officer is a tough job at times, but it is a hugely rewarding one. I am excited to see who puts themselves forward for this fantastic opportunity.

“Direct entry isn’t new to fire and rescue services but launching the scheme in a way that creates a supportive cohort right across the country is. The response from services wishing to be “early adopters” has been overwhelming and I am confident we will be able to offer a compelling proposition to candidates from across the whole of the UK.”

Dawn Whittaker, Direct Entry Project Executive said: “Many of the leadership skills required to run a modern FRS are not dissimilar to those required in other sectors, with people, financial, partnership and commercial skills at the fore.

“By diversifying those in our more senior roles we can invest in the future of our sector, and those already involved in the scheme are doing just that.”

Services will benefit immediately from the skills and experience of proven leaders from other sectors as they build their operational competence. The 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 it in a new and innovative way.

Direct Entry is just one of a number of projects being delivered by NFCC’s Leadership Programme, supporting FRS staff to move through their careers at a pace that suits them. This includes a recently launched Coaching and Mentoring Portal and Talent Management Toolkit, as well as a Supervisory Leadership Development Programme, expected to launch next month.

The project was launched to address some of the recommendations made in the HMICFRS State of Fire Report, which stated: “To provide the best possible response to the public, services need to be able to choose from the widest talent pool possible. That pool is currently restricted, with many people feeling excluded.”

The recent Government White Paper endorsed the work of the project, stating: “The NFCC Leadership hub is leading a project on direct entry schemes 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 services.”

Since its inception in 2020, the project team has engaged widely with stakeholders and has carried out 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.

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