The fire protection industry is suffering from a severe shortage of certified fire alarm technicians.  Contractors across Canada are desperate to hire technicians to support the ever-increasing demand for code compliant fire alarm inspections, service, and installations.  The solution needs to start with a robust education, extensive hands-on experience, and continuous mentorship for men and women who want to make fire protection their career.

Fanshawe College is one example of educators who are doing their part to inject new talent into the marketplace who are field-ready to turn their classroom training into practice.  Classic Fire + Life Safety have joined forces with Fanshawe to help prepare their students for success in the industry. Together, they're fueling a revolution in fire safety education and training. Let's delve into how they are changing the game, one student at a time.

The genesis of partnership

Frank Donati, Program Coordinator for the Fire Inspection, Fire Safety Education and Fire Safety Systems programs at Fanshawe’s School of Public Safety, was instrumental in fostering this partnership.

"There is obviously a need, but finding qualified candidates was difficult and time consuming. It's a specialty field that is growing quite fast, but there is not a large pool of candidates to draw from," says Donati.

His insight, stemming from his days as a Chief Fire Prevention Officer for the City of St. Catharines, led him to believe that the solution needs to start with better education.

"Moving to education was a natural progression for me,” continues Donati. “As Fire Prevention Officers, we are trained to educate, so moving to the education world was an easy transition for me. And so, a transformative three-year program was born.”

A comprehensive curriculum: bridging theory and practice

The program goes beyond the run-of-the-mill fire safety education by incorporating extensive courses ranging from Public Safety in Canada and Building Code Legislation to Courtroom Procedures and Risk Evaluation and Management. The goal for students is to understand the societal, legal, and ethical dimensions of the profession.

The partnership between school and the fire protection contractor is especially crucial in meeting Ontario's legal requirement that fire alarm technicians must be registered and maintain a minimum level of qualifications. Through the mentorship program, students gain practical, hands-on experience—forty hours of which are obligatory for graduation.

"Work-integrated learning is at the core of our program,” emphasizes Donati. “One day you learn in the classroom and the next day you're out in the field, mentored and supported by a skilled professional.”

Real-world impact: Classic Fire's first graduate hire

Jeabrillyn Ruiz, a Fanshawe graduate and previously registered nurse in the Philippines, is a glowing example of the program's efficacy.

"I wanted a career in which I could help people and I realized I could do that by working to prevent fires – before they threaten lives," Ruiz notes.

Moved by a blossoming passion for fire safety and prevention, she not only completed her mentorship hours but then swiftly secured a job at Classic FLS after graduating.

“The mentorship program helped me gain confidence in the work I was doing and allowed me to get hands on experience,” adds Ruiz.

The practical experience allows emerging talent to cement their learning and enjoy quicker placement, and success, in the fire safety industry.

The double payoff

The partnership helps to build qualified candidates.

"Jeabrillyn is a great fit for us,” says Barry Hathaway, Fire Alarm Service Manager at Classic FLS. “She has already received industry recognition including the Richard Morris Scholarship and a fire safety association award.  She's a highly skilled candidate and because of her participation in the mentorship program, has been able to make friends quickly with her new co-workers."

The transformative impact: more than just a career

The benefits of this program are manifold. For one, it addresses the gender gap traditionally observed in the industry, attracting women like Ruiz to shatter the glass ceiling. The program also allows students to get a better grasp of what their career will look like and apply the skills learned in the classroom directly on the job.

Donati sums it up best "It's a good day when you know you've done a good job and helped to protect people."

The Fanshawe and Classic FLS partnership isn't just an academic collaboration; it's a societal imperative, a promise to communities that industry is working with all partners to prioritize safety over all else. If you are looking to cultivate a rewarding journey towards a career in the fire safety industry, this mentorship program offers the optimal environment to nurture your skills and expertise.