Markham Fire and Emergency Services (MFES) recently donated a fire truck to Humber College, but, believe it or not, that isn't the service's biggest contribution to Humber students this year – not even close.
A new agreement between MFES and Humber College aims to reduce educational and employment barriers for future BIPOC firefighters.
"We are very proud to be working with Humber College and hope that this innovative and progressive program will motivate other businesses and organizations to take similar steps to increase representation in the workplace," said Adam Grant, MFES Fire Chief.
The agreement provides wraparound support for students enrolled in the two-year Fire Services diploma, followed by the one-year Pre-Service Firefighter Education and Training program. Those chosen receive scholarships and support for their courses at Humber and their professional training and certification.
The scholarships are awarded to two students each term for four terms. The recipients must live, work or attend school in Markham and identify as Black, Indigenous or Racialized.
"This program is filled with several key elements that will enhance the process of forging meaningful relationships between the community, City of Markham and private institutions as they seek to address racial systemic issues," said Lisa-Joy Facey, president, Markham African Caribbean Canadian Association (MACCA).
MACCA anticipates the program will have a "transformational" impact, according to Facey.
Upon graduation from Humber, the students will be offered a job interview and, if they're successful, employment with MFES.
When the recipients return to Markham as firefighters, their expertise and lived experience will enrich the community and the service itself.
"A more inclusive fire service improves a team's innovation and problem-solving abilities because of the different perspectives and experiences each individual brings," said Amanda Baskwill, associate dean, Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellness.
The scholarship may also encourage prospective students who don't see themselves represented in the profession to join the next generation of emergency responders in their communities.
In the third year of their education, during the one-year Pre-Service Firefighter Education and Training program, students will be mentored by a MFES staff member and be offered summer employment in the administration office, where they can continue to build their skills and their professional network.