THE recruitment of part-time firefighters in certain areas of Moray has become a major challenge for the service.
Moray Council’s police and fire rescue services committee heard yesterday (Thursday) that finding enough suitable candidates was creating significant issues in communities including Buckie, Rothes, Cullen and Lossiemouth.
Rae Cameron, a group manager with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, told the committee that the recruitment of retained staff was an “ongoing problem” that the service was working hard to tackle.
“There are shortages during the day,” he said. “And even if we find people today, it’s not a quick fix.”
Mr Cameron said it can take nine or 10 months from a person expressing an interest to being fully trained and in a position to take their place in a fire engine. The service was working hard to reduce that period to six months.
But it was not just sheer numbers that were the problem, Mr Cameron added.
The service needs to have people who can respond to an emergency call at short notice, which was becoming more and more difficult. The recession might be partly to blame, with employers less prepared to let staff leave their workplace at short notice.
“We could fill every fire station with the wrong kind of people,” he said. “The problem you have is the availability of staff to respond during the working week. While we can recruit plenty of staff in theory, we have to recruit the right people. If you employ the wrong people, all you do is compound the problem.”
On a more positive note, Mr Cameron said that a recent recruitment drive in Cullen, highlighted in ‘The Northern Scot’, had paid dividends.
“Nationally, we need to take an opportunity to reform and promote the retained service. The Army, TA and RAF have quite high-profile advertising campaigns,” he said. “We have done very little high-profile national advertising.”
Chris Tuke, a councillor in Heldon and Laich, suggested that offshore workers – who are often home for six months of the year – could be one area where the fire service could look at focusing its recruitment campaign.
However, David Rout, local senior officer for Aberdeenshire and Moray, said there could be difficulties with offshore workers attending weekly training sessions.
“We have seen some success stories and some horror stories,” he admitted. “It is to do with availability. The problem we have is staff not being available during the day.”