ALUMNI PROFILE: MATT OSBORN, FIREFIGHTER
We were delighted to catch up with Matt Osborn who is a firefighter with West Yorkshire Fire Service. Matt offers some valuable guidance to students who may be considering a career as a firefighter including the key attributes required and the six-stage application process. Matt also stresses how you should never give up and to follow your dream.
- Tell us about your post-16 studies and the path you took to becoming a fire fighter
I took A-levels in Business Studies, Geography and Sociology and I was particularly keen on business studies so I went on to study Business and Marketing at Sheffield Hallam. After university, it was then I decided I wanted to join the fire service. After graduation, I applied to both Derbyshire and South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Services to pursue my dream. However, I was unsuccessful and did not make it through the long recruitment process.
I then got a job as a teaching assistant in a local primary school and loved it that much I found myself returning to Sheffield Hallam to do a PGCE in Primary Education to become a primary teacher. I then spent two and half years teaching a Year 5 class in Derbyshire, where I was also in charge of PE. I enjoyed the role and loved my heavy involvement in sport but I felt like it wasn’t quite right for me (and I still had the burning desire to join the fire service).
So, six years after my first applications, I applied to West Yorkshire Fire Service, making it my third application overall. I still wanted to pursue this career due to me loving the outdoors and team work appeal of the job.
- How did you find the application process to become a firefighter?
The application process was long and thorough, consisting of six stages in total and a final medical examination. Over 2,000 people applied for the role, and in the end 20 were successful. We were offered a lot of help and guidance throughout though which was extremely useful.
The process kicked off with an initial online application detailing my previous experience and education. Second, a behavioural questionnaire, and, third, maths and English tests which were all done online. These were all at the level that you would do at GCSE.
Following a successful pass mark of these, the fourth stage saw recruits invited to take part in the physical/practical assessment day that tested your general fitness and strength, and well as your confidence with working at height and in confined spaces.
The fifth stage was an assessment day that consisted of three interviews, a group activity, a report writing task and a role play task.
And, finally, after being successful at the assessment day, the 20 successful recruits had to complete a full medical check to ensure we were fit and well to do the job.
- Once you were accepted, what was the first round of training like?
The initial training course was 14 weeks long which covered the basics and starting point of each aspect of the job. This includes: pumps and ladders, breathing apparatus, line rescue, water rescue, casualty care, hazardous materials and road traffic collisions. It was extremely physically demanding but also extremely rewarding and I met many friends for life on the course.
- How long do you train before you are able to be on shift and attend call outs?
Once you have completed the initial 14-week training course you start on station on a ‘four-on, four-off’ shift pattern, comprising of two day shifts and two night shifts. The probation period for a firefighter lasts for 15-18 months while you complete your NVQ and attend regular call-outs on station.
- Where are you based?
I am based at a station in Bradford in West Yorkshire
- What are the key attributes required to be a firefighter?
Being able to work well in a team, and to listen and follow instructions is extremely important as a firefighter. It’s also key to take responsibility for your own learning and development as there is so much to learn about the role. Most importantly, in my opinion, is being enthusiastic and proactive and always being the one to volunteer to help out.
- What do you enjoy most about the role?
I really enjoy the teamwork aspect of the role and the close camaraderie we have on station. I also love that no day is the same. We can get a range of jobs all in one day that might include assisting paramedics with gaining entry into a property, putting out a large fire or carrying out a school talk – so it makes every day new and exciting. And the learning never stops as you can specialise in certain areas you find the most appealing, including water rescue, line rescue and technical rescue.
- What advice would you give to students who are interested in becoming a firefighter join the fire cadets?
Don’t give up, it took me three attempts to get in and I know people who tried many more times! Be enthusiastic and give it your all at every stage, and the rest will come. And it will be worth it! And please be assured that the fire service is not just for men, it’s for people of all ages, genders, races, backgrounds and creed.