Diverse workforce a priority for fire chief

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Paul Brown (44), who was appointed to the role on Monday following a 13-month stint as acting chief fire officer, said that research had shown that organisations ‘get even better’ when their staffing becomes more diverse.

Currently Jersey’s fire service has two female firefighters out of 67 full-time and 41 on-call officers.

‘Both of them are on-call firefighters and one of them is a commander,’ said Mr Brown.

‘They are excellent ambassadors for us. But we need to increase the number of people – women and different nationalities – who consider this as a career and who apply for a career with us.

‘Research shows that organisations get even better at what they do when they are more diverse, so that is a priority.

‘There is nothing wrong with the workforce we have now – the team I have now is superb – but we can be even better.’

Jersey-born Mr Brown, who joined the fire service in 1994, said that it already benefitted from the talents of firefighters and other staff with Polish and Madeiran backgrounds.

He added: ‘We have people from outside the British Isles who work here – from Poland, Madeira and Portugal – and we have had [firefighters from those countries] for many years.

‘It’s about recognising that difference is good, difference is positive and difference makes a stronger team.

‘My aim is to try and encourage [more] women and people from different ethnic backgrounds, including those who have skills with other languages and different experiences, to consider the fire service
as a career. It can be varied and exciting and it is almost always very rewarding.

‘It can be extremely tough at times, but your gender or where your family is from has no bearing. It does not mean anything in the fire and rescue service – it’s simply about being the best team player and getting the best mix of skills and people.’

He dismissed any notion that some women might be intimidated by what has traditionally been seen as a macho environment, and added: ‘To some extent I think we are in a competitive labour market – Jersey is a high-quality offshore financial sector.

‘There’s a lot of really good competition out there in terms of employment opportunity and that might be a part of it.

‘To a notable extent, and research across the UK shows this as well, people from different backgrounds -–women with different experiences or men who come from different backgrounds – might not think this is a career they are right for.

‘What I would say is: “Stop thinking that now – that’s not true. What gender you are, who you are or where you are from means nothing – we are interested in what [skills] you bring and what you are like as a person.”’

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