A number of fire departments around the United States have recognized the need to start developing the next generation of all-hazards fire and emergency services providers much earlier than we've generally done in the past.
Think about the importance, and success, of the military's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) programs in high schools, along with fire/police Explorer posts and others, such as the San Bernardino charter school mentioned in this article, "Fire chief wants job 'pipeline' for Calif. department."
Even if these students ultimately decide not to make their career in the fire and emergency services, there's probably a great benefit in terms of their civic engagement and understanding of what we do.
For many years the fire service has been able to rely on having enough people show up and take a test to fill the recruitment/hiring pipeline; the question is whether that kind of process still makes sense for the future?
It's not just an issue for career departments; the volunteer service is constantly challenged by recruiting and retaining qualified firefighters, emergency medical personnel, and administrative support staff.
Despite the current recession, which won't last forever (really), there remains stiff competition for the best and brightest candidates in the labor pool.
Moreover, if we want our departments to reflect all facets of our communities' diversity, then we're going to need to work harder.
But then, I just can't think of a successful industry that sits back and waits for their future leaders and managers to just show up.
Why should we?