Parks staff gaining professional qualifications in fire management

Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS) staff are increasingly gaining professional qualifications in fire fighting and fire incident management through the Productivity Places Program, contributing to an increased capacity for fire management within the agency.

Fire fighting is core business for the PWS as the state’s largest land manager and nearly half of the 158 staff involved in the massive 2012/13 fires in Tasmania, are undertaking Public Safety Training Package qualifications through the Productivity Places Program sponsored by the Australian Government and Skills Tasmania.

A total of 69 staff are involved in the program, gaining various Certificate level qualifications.

The program grew out of recommendations from the Victorian Bushfire Commission and is based on an accreditation and endorsement process defined by the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC), the peak body for public sector fire, land management and emergency service organisations in Australia and New Zealand.

PWS fire operations manager Adrian Pyrke said the first group of staff targeted for the qualifications was the statewide Fire Crew as the fire fighting and remote area specialists within PWS. Eight of the crew have now completed a Certificate IV qualification with one more on track to achieve the qualification.

“This program has resulted in an increased number of Fire Crew staff able to plan, document and conduct prescribed (planned) burning operations, an increased number of staff able to deliver pre-season preparedness sessions for staff and a greater capacity to provide coaching and mentoring for regional staff such as ranger, field officers and administration staff who have other primary roles,” Mr Pyrke said.

Another 10 staff completing a Level III Certificate are fire fighters with the capacity to become crew leaders capable of being paired with provisional fire fighters. This paired deployment is essential to fast-track learning and experience.

Two years ago, another group of 48 staff began qualifications associated with their roles in Incident Management Teams (IMT) for Level 2 and Level 3, medium to major bushfires of high-level complexity.

Gaining qualifications that are recognised across all Australian states and territories is part of a national direction to accredit Level 3 IMT roles and a priority for the three agencies, PWS, Tasmania Fire Service and Forestry Tasmania,  involved in fire management in Tasmania. Three staff have since completed their qualifications, with another 44 progressing in their studies.

Mr Pyrke said that the program has increased the personal and team confidence, especially in regard to supporting and mentoring others.

“For the PWS, it has helped to increase the focus on fire management year round, and more importantly, it has improved the capacity of the PWS and its inter-agency partners to manage and review professional development in this area,” he said.

Fire administration officer Adele Wright has obtained two qualifications in the past 24 months, a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and Certificate IV in Public Safety (Leadership).

“Both complement each other in my routine work and fire roles and I feel I think far more strategically than I did before I completed the qualifications,” Adele said.

“The Certificate IV Training and Assessment qualification supports the mentoring and coaching role I often undertake as logistics officer in Incident Management Teams. I am now contributing to the assessment of peers through support and evidence portfolio compilation.”

Brian Hevey, the Public Safety trainer/assessor for HANDA Training Solutions and HANDA’s former RTO Manager worked closely with Iris Todd from PWS, to develop a learning and assessment strategy that includes on-the-job recognition complemented by fire-ground assessment and mentoring. The program then provides training and coaching in areas where skills need acquisition or development.

“It’s great to work with an organisation that values its people by providing these development opportunities for them,” Mr Hevey said.

“The program has kept me busy on days, nights, weekends and public holidays.  PWS has provided every opportunity for me to get to the fire-front, whether I’m assessing fire fighters and sector leaders on the fire-ground or members of IMTs at an incident control centre. 

This is a great example of a successful training partnership between private and public entities and the result is a true win-win; my RTO gets plenty of work; PWS recognises and rewards the professionalism of its staff; and each person has the opportunity to achieve a qualification for their efforts.”
Adele, along with PWS training coordinator Iris Todd, have been appointed to an Inter-Agency (I-A)Training Committee and they have written a very comprehensive I-A Training Review which has been accepted by the rest of the group and endorsed by the Multi Agency Coordinating group. 

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