12 December 2016 by Catherine Nelms, Content Executive
Some jobs are very obvious. They are the sort of jobs that if you ask a 5-year-old what they want to be when they grow up, they will immediately name a few: nurse, teacher, doctor, fireman, truck driver, farmer. And as we grow up, we don’t ever really end up learning much more about other industries – unless we work in them.
Some industries are more obvious to the outside world – the film, tv, and music industries are good examples. The fashion industry. Finance and banking, technology, maybe even publishing. Industries like this are all very obvious and most people – although they might not know how that particular industry works – at least know that these industries exist.
The thing is, in that knowing these industries exist, everyone tries to get a job in them. The movie or music industry is appealing because people have an idea how those industries work. People even might try and get into other industries such as homeware or retail – because hey, we all have been to a shop and we all have sofas in our houses. These things are obvious because they are right in front of us.
But for some reason, there is one industry that gets completely overlooked.
One industry saves more people’s lives than you’d initially imagine and has a huge humanitarian cause, but you can bet your bottom dollar that if you asked anyone in the street, they wouldn’t be able to name it. On top of that, even if you asked them what it was or does, they still wouldn’t be able to explain what they know about it.
That one industry is the fire industry.
Now the odd thing here is that professionals within the industry would be able to accurately describe the industry itself and what it does, but to the average joe, the words ‘fire industry’ mean almost nothing (does the industry make fire?).
But no. The fire industry should probably be better referred to as the ‘fire safety’ industry, or the ‘fire prevention’ industry. For the sake of argument, perhaps even the word ‘management’ should be thrown in the mix somewhere, because the majority of what happens within the industry is about managing fire risks and reducing them in order to save lives.
And whilst we within the industry might sit here spouting legislation, standards, and acronyms without any trouble (FIRESA, BSi, BS5839-1, RRFSO 2005 anyone?) – all of that is a complete and other language to anyone and everyone else. That includes end users, customers, and even anyone on the job market looking for a new direction.
The fire industry is a completely hidden industry to most. But if we just opened the lid and began talking about our experiences within the industry in a human and relatable way, we might just start to get the outside world to listen.
Teaching others about the huge benefits of working in an industry that saves lives and protects the people around them makes the industry much more attractive to job seekers. We shouldn’t shy away from talking about what we do – instead we should proudly say that in our daily lives, we help prevent hundreds of fires. We save buildings, and we help people to escape burning buildings safely.
We should discuss our experiences with others, tell our stories of our careers, of our personal successes. Only by being completely open, human, and relatable will those outside the sector gain an interest in joining the industry.
And that is why the FIA is driving the industry forward here. We want our young people to know and understand the industry, to bring new faces and fresh ideas into our industry. New people are always such a vital resource, but often overlooked for those with more experience. Why are they useful? The answer: because they bring fresh ideas and innovation.
Here at FIA HQ, we had two groups of work experience teens come from local schools for a week at a time to see what it is really like to work in the industry. After a carefully planned experience, they went away inspired. It’s not the fact that we had teenagers doing work experience that made the impact – it was giving the chance to learn, to be important to the organisation. Some of them wrote blog posts, some took over our social media (I bet you didn’t even notice!), and we had all of them work on concepts for a video to communicate with other teens about career opportunities in the industry.
We even took their ideas to our marketing group meeting, and yes, we really do intend to use their ideas to create that video.
The point is – we didn’t just let the work experience groups photocopy things and make the tea. We involved them, we treated them as we would new recruits, mining them for ideas and showing them that their contribution was useful.
However, inspiring two groups of teenagers won’t be enough to turn the industry from invisible to an immediate idea for a career option. The whole industry needs to share ideas on how to get the next set of young people involved.