Innovative course at Barnstaple Fire Station helps give unemployed a better chance of finding work

A new course to help young adults into work by battling unemployment with fire fighting skills has just finished its first run at Barnstaple Fire Station.

On Friday eight 19 to 24-year-olds who had volunteered to attend the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service Phoenix course graduated with flying colours at a passing out parade watched by family, friends and guests.

The seven week course was organised by the fire service in partnership with Barnstaple Jobcentre Plus - jobseekers are treated as trainee fire fighters and issued with uniforms and fire fighting kit.

They have spent one day a week learning a range of skills just as fire fighters do, including hose running, use of breathing apparatus, road accident drills and basic first aid.

The first aid training was provided by the British Red Cross and Phoenix also enabled them to gain a Food and Hygiene Foundation Certificate from Petroc.

The course is Government funded via Job Centre Plus and has been adapted from the original fire service-run Phoenix course for 14-17 year olds to help build self-esteem, develop leadership skills, improve communication skills and increase motivation.

“This is a new course for North Devon and as far as I am aware, there is only one other fire service in the country at the moment running anything similar,” said crew manager and course leader Alan Kyle from the fire service.

“At the moment recruits for this course only come via Jobcentre Plus but we are constantly developing the scheme so other vulnerable people and young adult groups can also have the opportunity.”

Young father Alex Courtley is aged 19 and from Barnstaple. He said the course was definitely going to achieve what it set out to do.

“I got quite a lot out of it, not only to help get a job, but also with the stress of being a father on benefits, being able to get out once a week with a good bunch of guys and instructors has been a lot of fun.”

Daniel Mash, also 19 and from Braunton said it had been “brilliant” and a great opportunity: “I got to experience a lot of new things and made some new friends as well, plus some good skills that I would not ordinarily get in everyday life,” he said.

“I would definitely like to recommend the course to other people.”

A new Phoenix course is due to be held at Barnstaple Fire Station before the end of this year.