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Code 3 Podcast: Trade skills vs. degrees in the fire service

Chad Costa and Scott Orr discuss the question, “Do firefighters with skills but no degree have less worth?”


Photo/Chad Costa

If you’ve been in the fire service long enough, you probably remember meeting firefighters who had incredible trade skills – maybe you were one of them! These were the members who came into the job knowing things like engine repair, electrical tasks or even plumbing.

As the fire service evolves into more of a profession, with enhanced emphasis on higher education, degrees and credentials, and hiring and promotion based largely on test scores and education, we’re left with this question: Are trade skills still valued?

That’s just what I’m exploring with Chad Costa in this episode of the Code 3 podcast. Costa is a battalion chief with the City of Petaluma (California) Fire Department. He has two decades in the fire service, and he has worked in some pretty diverse situations, from a rural department to a city as well as CAL FIRE. Costa is also the technology and communications battalion chief and a division group supervisor on California Interagency Team 5.

Code 3 is hosted by award-winning journalist Scott Orr, who has covered the fire/EMS/police beat for most of his 30-plus year career in news. He’s worked around the country in both TV and print. Orr was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease over a decade ago, but that doesn’t stop him from interviewing fire service leaders on issues that concern firefighters around the nation.