FBU scheme keeps firefighters fit for work

Firefighters are spreading the word about health, fitness and nutrition among their colleagues by volunteering to take personal training Apprenticeships.

More than 500 firefighters are currently helping to promote, support and enhance the fitness of their co-workers in their physically demanding job by undertaking Level 3 personal training Apprenticeships through their union.

As well as improving their knowledge of anatomy and physiology, rehabilitation, diet and nutrition, firefighters on the programme are improving their Functional Skills English and maths (with support from the FBU Learning Centre, as needed, after an initial assessment).

Blending classroom time, individual coursework and days in the gym, the Advanced Apprenticeship creates fully qualified personal trainers who can register with REPS (the register of exercise training professionals).

The Apprenticeship programme units are:

Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training

NVQ Diploma in Personal Training

Level 2 in Gym Instructing

Level 2 Functional Skills maths

Level 2 Functional Skills English

Level 2 Award in Employment Awareness in Active Leisure and Learning.

The 18-month programme has been made possible by a partnership between the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) National Learning Centre, the Local Government Association (LGA) and Leeds City College.

Helping firefighters to maintain their fitness levels has become even more urgent now that the government has raised the pensionable age in the service 60, according to ULF Project Manager Mark Dunne.

Mark said;

With all the stresses and strains, mentally and physically, of working in emergency environments, the knowledge of anatomy and physiology contained within the Apprenticeship is extremely helpful for firefighters: they can learn what happens to the body as we grow older, how to stretch and be flexible to prevent injury and address the physical demands of being a firefighter at any age.”

When the union originally put together the programme 18 months ago, it was quietly confident that it would appeal to both firefighters and the Fire & Rescue Service (FRS).

South Yorkshire firefighter Mick Thompson is one of the 520 FBU members currently undertaking the Apprenticeship, after enrolling last summer.

Mick said;

It’s a lot more in-depth than I initially expected and it’s a lot to cram in but don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying it,”

With annual fitness tests now part of firefighters’ working lives, Mick is more than happy to share what he’s learning with his co-workers.

Mick added that;

If people ask me, I’m happy to pass on what I’ve learned about different exercises to work on different muscle groups or information on diet and nutrition and if I see something that someone is doing wrong, then I’ll mention it.”

The firefighters who are currently enrolled on the Apprenticeship come from half of the Fire and Rescue Services around the country, and the union hopes that the rest will soon follow suit, especially since the introduction of the government’s new Apprenticeship Levy.

Mark explained;

The FBU National Learning Centre is now on the register of approved Apprenticeship providers, so when FRS employers are looking for quality and quality assurance in a provider with a proven track record of delivering, they can find us through the register.”

Feedback from the learners has been positive so far, as Mark is pleased to point out;

We were new to this 18 months ago, and we’re looking to improve all the time, to be more efficient and to provide better support for the students right the way through,”

The feedback we conducted with our first cohort at the mid-point was excellent: we’re hoping that positive word of mouth from FBU members, combined with us improving by acting on the feedback we receive, means that we’ll get to the position that all FRS employers want to take part.”

This case study first appeared in “Unionlearn - Unions supporting high-quality Apprenticeships” which can be downloaded from the unionlearn website: https://www.unionlearn.org.uk/publications