City Times Staff
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – Demand for firefighters in central Wisconsin will soon receive a needed boost with the addition of a new Fire Protection Technician program at Mid-State Technical College (Mid-State). The program starts in August, and Mid-State is now accepting applications to the program. The Fire Technician Protection program, a two-year associate degree, was developed in partnership with local fire departments and will be based at Mid-State’s Wisconsin Rapids Campus.
Mid-State Associate Dean Rick Anderson believes graduates from the new program will be in high demand among local fire departments. In development of the new program, college officials met with local fire departments to discuss the need, and Anderson says they heard the same feedback time and time again.
“Fire departments throughout central Wisconsin told us they are in need of additional highly-skilled firefighters,” said Anderson. “And that number will only grow as current firefighters retire.”
Looming retirements are certainly a very real problem at local fire departments. Without an influx of new talent, the area’s shortage of highly-skilled firefighters could become critical.
“Many of the departments in this area have a large number of people who will be retiring in the next 5-7 years,” said Marshfield Fire & Rescue Department Fire Chief Robert Haight.
In development of the program, college officials learned that a total of 30 full-time firefighters would be needed in the next five years just to replace those who are retiring. Overall, the need for firefighters is expected to grow 5% nationally from 2014 to 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Mid-State’s Fire Protection Technician program prepares graduates for a career in fire prevention and protection. Students learn knowledge and techniques for solving fire, hazardous material, and medical emergencies. That instruction is offered through a combination of realistic classroom simulation and hands-on experience on high-tech equipment at fire training facilities. The college recently purchased two fire engines for training purposes and already has a state-of-the art burn tower at Wisconsin Rapids Campus. Mid-State also jointly uses a fire training facility in Marshfield in partnership with Marshfield Fire and Rescue Department.
“This Fire Protection Technician program means that we will have stronger candidates for firefighters, as we find that people who have this kind of training are highly skilled,” said Haight.
There has always been a need for firefighters locally, but previous to this program, people interested in firefighting were forced to leave the area to get the training they need. Anderson says that 47 people in just the last three years left Mid-State’s district to get training similar to what is now being offered at Mid-State. As a result, Anderson believes the program will be very popular from the start.
“People living here in central Wisconsin will no longer need to relocate to get the training and education they need to be firefighters,” said Anderson.
Likewise, area fire departments will now have a local resource for hiring talented firefighters.
“Before this program, many firefighters we hired were from outside this area, and many times they want to go back to their home area when a position opens up,” said Haight. “This new Mid-State program will give us a local source of quality firefighters who want to stay in the area.”
To learn more about Mid-State’s Fire Protection Technician associate degree program and how to enroll, contact Rick Anderson at 715-422-5473.