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EMT training gives fire candidates competitive edge

When Jennifer Vivion was 17, she was injured in a car crash on her way from high school. The first to arrive on the scene was fire and rescue. A paramedic, the mother of a classmate, took the teen under her wing.

“She made me feel very safe and feel like everything was going to be OK,” Vivion said by email. “She later took me to Fire Station 1 downtown to take me on a tour. I was inspired the moment I was in the back of that ambulance being cared for. I wanted to be that for somebody or for many.”

Now, more than a decade later, Vivion is finally on her way to that dream thanks to a career training program offered through Southern Nevada Workforce Connections. The program pays for emergency medical technician training.

Clark County Fire Department Deputy Chief Roy Session said that while an EMT certification isn’t currently required to test for fire department employment, it is a “resume stacker” that gives candidates a competitive edge.

“It just gives you a step up,” he said. “Ninety percent of our calls in the fire service are medical calls, so when we do our testing, that can give you a good step up in the hiring process.”

Sessions said that area fire departments typically take applications about every two years. When applications are open, they’ll take in 4,000 or 5,000 to test. From those tested, a list of the top 200 to 400 candidates will be made. Then over the next two years, candidates will be hired from the list.

In October, Workforce Connections, in conjunction with local fire departments in Henderson, North Las Vegas, Las Vegas and Clark County, hosted a two-day Citizens Fire Academy for more than two dozen eligible job seekers.

Session said the academy was a great way to “give them an idea of what they’re getting into” prior to the application period in December and the interviewing process set for March.

Vivion was part of that Citizen’s Fire Academy and is now enrolled in EMT training, which she expects to complete in June.

Kenadie Cobbin Richardson, Workforce Connections director of business engagement and communications, said the EMT training typically costs at least $1,800. Richardson said coming up with that money can be a barrier for many.

Vivion said the money was a barrier for her.

“I’ve been working two jobs on and off for the last 10 years,” she said. “Having the time to go to school and getting the money to go were my two biggest issues. Sometimes you just need to take the plunge to make yourself happy and pursue your dreams.”

Even with the financial help, she said pursing education has been challenging.

“This program helped me mostly with confidence in pursuing my desired career,” she said. “And the financial assistance was a huge help, as well. Also, the financial help made me want to make more time and sacrifices. I want to do everything in my power to succeed through school and the future requirements of this job.”

Richardson said that even though this application cycle for the fire services is already underway, Workforce Connections continues to offer EMT training to qualified applicants 18 or older who are unemployed or underemployed.

“We’re highly encouraging minorities and women because they are underrepresented in the fire service, but anyone can take advantage of the program,” she said. “Anyone at any time who is interested in becoming an EMT can do that.”

She added that EMT training is useful in many fields aside from fire service and is a good first step for breaking into health care professions.

Session said there will always be a demand for people trained in emergency medical services.

“EMS is pretty much recession-proof,” he said. “People are going to always get sick. There’s going to be accidents. It’s one of those fields that is not going to go away.”

Vivion said the training has been challenging, but worth it.

“I want people to know that it’s OK to be scared and overwhelmed,” she said. “The process is not easy, yet very rewarding. Do what you love and love what you do. If it’s to help the community and save lives, then get out there and do it.”

For more information on EMT training opportunities, contact Workforce Connections’ LeRoy Bilal at 702-636-2343 or lbilal@snvwc.org.

— Contact View contributing reporter Ginger Meurer at gmeurer@viewnews.com. Find her on Twitter: @gingermmm.

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