Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue

Introduction

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue decided to recruit for whole time Fire Fighters for the first time in a number of years. Bucks decided that they wanted to run an apprenticeship scheme for new recruits, a new law was introduced that deems all apprentices must be seen to be doing a government funded qualification alongside their apprenticeship.

This consequently required Bucks Fire to find an approved apprenticeship training agency (ATA) to help assist with all aspects of the apprenticeship right from recruit selection to appointment of the apprenticeship.

The ATA would also be responsible for drawing down funding for the qualifications that the new apprentices would be doing and also they would be directly employed by the ATA, this meant that all employer responsibilities, pastoral care, HR issues etc. would go through the ATA.

As a disciplined service Bucks fire would still retain an element of authority with the new recruits, so if the apprentices hadn’t looked after their BA equipment properly or not done any of the station duties issued to them then they still have a right to take the appropriate action. Matters that are more serious and may require verbal or written warnings or dismissal would go through the ATA.

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Acquisition of Contract

Bucks Fire decided to present this concept and put it out for different companies to tender for the work. Encompass began by sending company information across to make sure that we met all criteria set by Bucks fire, this enabled us to get through the pre-qualifying questionnaire stage (PQQ).

Encompass went through to the next stage and was given an invitation to tender (ITT), Encompass compiled evidence of all work done within the public sector ranging from the NHS and the Council to the Fire & Rescue Service to include in the bid. Encompass went into detail about the different stages that went into implementing the training programmes and the delivery plans for these qualifications.

Encompass had to also give details of the success measures & rates we have had with the qualifications delivered, this included things like timely completions, retention of apprentices, withdrawals and much more. The bid also asked if the ATA could appoint an account manager who would be available within 1 working day, Encompass came up with a three-tier management structure for this.

It was decided that Lisa French, Managing Director, would be the Contract Director, Josh Clarkson would be the day-day Account Manager and Adam Rhodes would be the secondary account manager. Encompass also had to demonstrate that we had the relevant experience and resources to recruit new apprentices, we had to agree that we are happy to enter into an SLA agreement and adhere to KPI’s should Bucks feel the need to put this forward. Also we had to state what management fee we would be looking at for the services of Encompass.

Once the bid had been submitted Encompass was invited to the next stage which was a presentation to a panel of pre-selected individuals who would be involved in the development and implementation of the ATA model. The presentation was based around the bid submitted, we had to speak and discuss at length about the key areas of the business and key contracts. Once the presentation had been done it was up to Bucks Fire to make a decision on who they wanted to be their approved ATA.

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Implementation stage

Contract was awarded to Encompass and we now had to have multiple meetings with Bucks Fire to gain an idea of their plan and their vision on how they wanted this concept to be put into practice. Encompass went in with their own idea on how they wanted to proceed with the ATA contract and together, Bucks Fire and Encompass worked on this until a plan was formalised to take forward.

The meetings we had covered a number of areas such as location of an office in the area, as an ATA we wanted an office to work from and also to appoint a programme manager to help look after the contract. Encompass still had a day to day account manager but felt given the location of the contract and our head office that we should have someone based in the area, this would further help us manage the contract and should there be any issues we could have someone onsite within the hour.

Bucks Fire and Encompass had to also discuss the meeting frequencies and the different types of meetings that would be needed in the lead up to implementing the contract, it was decided until we had a programme manager put in place we would have a meeting every two weeks on the progress and slowly transition to monthly meetings once everything was up and running.

Together we also outlined what type of roles we would be recruiting on behalf of Bucks Fire and the numbers for year one, we established that we would be looking for Firefighters, Fire Safety, Community Safety, Workshop and Business Admin apprentices. We also confirmed a start date for the recruitment of these apprentices, it was decided that we would recruit after the familiarisation days Bucks Fire were organising.

As the approved ATA Encompass decided that Josh should be in Aylesbury from Tuesday 26th till Saturday 30th to assist Bucks Fire with the days they put on for potential new recruits to come and familiarise themselves with the potential tests that they will have to do when becoming a firefighter, this also provided candidates an opportunity to find out about the daily life as a firefighter and also the duties they will be expected to do. The reason Josh was present on these days was to answer any questions about the ATA model the potential new recruits might have, also it allowed Josh to get a better understanding of the type of tests recruits would have to go through and drills that whole time firefighters do on a daily basis. This gave Josh a better understanding of the structure of Bucks Fire which further helped him manage the contract to a high standard. Bucks Fire compiled job adverts and descriptions for the different roles they wanted to recruit for and gave Encompass the details of how many apprentices they wanted to recruit and in which areas. Encompass worked on developing an advert which we cleared with Bucks Fire, once clearance was given we then uploaded this to the National Apprenticeship Service Website with a set time scale of how long the advert would run.

The reason Josh was present on these days was to answer any questions about the ATA model the potential new recruits might have, also it allowed Josh to get a better understanding of the type of tests recruits would have to go through and drills that whole time firefighters do on a daily basis. This gave Josh a better understanding of the structure of Bucks Fire which further helped him manage the contract to a high standard. Bucks Fire compiled job adverts and descriptions for the different roles they wanted to recruit for and gave Encompass the details of how many apprentices they wanted to recruit and in which areas. Encompass worked on developing an advert which we cleared with Bucks Fire, once clearance was given we then uploaded this to the National Apprenticeship Service Website with a set time scale of how long the advert would run.

Bucks Fire compiled job adverts and descriptions for the different roles they wanted to recruit for and gave Encompass the details of how many apprentices they wanted to recruit and in which areas. Encompass worked on developing an advert which we cleared with Bucks Fire, once clearance was given we then uploaded this to the National Apprenticeship Service Website with a set time scale of how long the advert would run. Bucks and Encompass worked together to create a sifting criteria, it was decided every applicant had to have a C or equivalent in Maths and English regardless of experience and also there had to be a visual effort on the profile they built for the application. Once the sifting process was completed the applicants were put into different age categories and also sorted into which role they applied for, they were then sent to Bucks Fire for them to decide who went through to the second application stage, and it was then our job to send out these application forms individually to the potential new recruits, there were 103 firefighting applications sent out. A timescale was given for the applications to be sent back from individuals, if they didn’t send them back in the allotted time then their application wouldn’t be taken further.

Bucks and Encompass worked together to create a sifting criteria, it was decided every applicant had to have a C or equivalent in Maths and English regardless of experience and also there had to be a visual effort on the profile they built for the application.

Once the sifting process was completed the applicants were put into different age categories and also sorted into which role they applied for, they were then sent to Bucks Fire for them to decide who went through to the second application stage, and it was then our job to send out these application forms individually to the potential new recruits, there was 103 firefighting applications sent out. A timescale was given for the applications to be sent back from individuals, if they didn’t send them back in the allotted time then their application wouldn’t be taken further.

Current Positon

We are now at the stage where Bucks are inviting individuals to role related tests, this will determine which applicants have the physical requirements to become a whole time firefighter.

This further aids with the sifting process, people who pass will then go onto medical and DBS checks and then the final stage interview.