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Wandong’s daytime recruitment bonanza
Wandong brigade was increasingly relying on just two or three people for daytime turnout and scanned their community for a solution. They saw it in local stay-at-home parents and targeted them in a recruitment drive, with great success.
“Last fire season we were struggling,” confirmed Captain Yorin Miller. “It was getting too tight and we were too reliant on two or three people. We could get a driver or a crew but we couldn’t get both.”
Proximity to Melbourne means many locals commute out of the area for work including Yorin who’s an engineer for Qantas at the airport.
“The flipside is I do shift work which means I’m around a heck of a lot,” he said, “but stay-at-home parents are often close to home.”
Yorin brainstormed with brigade training officer Liam Edwards and community safety officer Amanda Allsop, and each member engaged in the recruitment process was assigned a clearly-defined role.
“The key thing was establishing a really specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely goal,” continued Yorin. “For us that was five new members by the end of June 2016 within the target group of stay-at-home parents.
“To reach them, we arranged three drop-in sessions at the station during the day during the week,” continued Yorin. “Bring your kids, have a cuppa and a snack, ask questions and have a look around.
“We created them as events on our Facebook page so they’d come up on our followers’ news feeds, and we got an article and photos in our local paper.”
Yorin also gave a talk about the brigade at the local primary school’s Friday assembly which is always well attended by parents. The “Hey Mum and Dad, join CFA” talk certainly went down well with the kids!
Later that day, the brigade set the truck up in the car park during school pick-up so the kids could have a look. They also left about 200 flyers under the windscreen wipers of all nearby cars and in local shops.
“We were building momentum but we kept the campaign short and intense,” said Yorin. “We were getting families involved and showing them that we were family friendly.
“We also wanted to address diversity in the brigade. We’ve had a strong culture of equality and women in the brigade. About 15 years ago, we had a group of local mums from the primary school who were members together so we had that in mind.”
The drop-in sessions led to six new members for Wandong and one for Clonbinane. They’re all women aged from 16 to their early 40s with the majority in their 30s.
When it came to training, the seven were asked what time best suited them. Fridays from 12.30 to 3pm for two months was agreed on, with shift workers and trainers Yorin and Liam fitting it into their schedules.
The understanding was always that family comes first. Kids were welcome to attend, bringing their bikes and scooters and being provided with a snack.
A vital part of Wandong’s success was recognising that school pick-up time had to mark the end of training. But what about stay-at-home parents turning out to an incident when the clock is inching towards 3pm?
The brigade came up with a creative workaround.
“The local childcare provider at the school has agreed that, if you’re eligible for a government rebate, care will be free for parents who are called out to a job up until 6pm,” explained Yorin. “It’s not full childcare – it’s only for the school-age kids – but it’s one less thing they need to stress about.
“Admittedly there’s a certain extent of work-it-out-as-we-go. You can only pre-plan so much.”
All seven members have now completed their assessments and are training with the wider brigade on Wednesday nights as well as continuing the Friday daytime training sessions.
“We don’t train on Sundays because that’s a family day and we aim for a bit of CFA/life balance,” continued Yorin.
“We’ll be able to get a few turnouts under their belts before summer really hits. We have an average of 110 to 140 incidents a year, so their contribution is going to be really valuable.”