Six students graduated from TCC Northwest’s first-ever blended Fire Academy in October. The blended academy is a combination of online coursework and in-person, practical skill development.
“Our traditional Fire Academy is 12 and a half weeks That’s a long time for someone to take off work,” said Steve Keller, director of the Fire Service Training Center. “Our blended academy allows students who are working to do their academic coursework on their own time and then come up to campus on weekends to get their hands-on skills.”
The blended academy lasts 17 weeks instead of the usual 12. During the week, students work on projects and discussion boards and take tests. Students are required to come to the Fire Service Training Center 14 out of the 17 weeks to be evaluated on their practical, hands-on skills. On these weekends, the students work on things like advancing a charged hose line into a structure, setting ladders and cutting holes in roofs for ventilation, as well as rescue skills such as assisting a downed firefighter out of a building.
While the structure and schedule are designed to fit a more flexible schedule, these weekend sessions are incredibly important.
“These students really make a commitment to this program,” explained Bill Pearson, coordinator of fire services.“They have to put vacations and other things on hold because missing one day of skills can set a student back significantly.”
Of the graduates of the blended Fire Academy, several already work in EMS or are volunteer firefighters. These students qualified for a tuition waiver through the State of Texas, but their current schedules would not have allowed them to participate in a traditional fire academy.
“This is really important for our effort to be a student-ready college,” said Sonya Brown, dean of public services and social and behavioral sciences. “We’ve had students tell us, ‘but for this blended Fire Academy, I would never be able to be a firefighter’ and that’s what it’s all about.”
There is strong interest from students for another blended academy. The format requires 17 weeks of reliable weather to complete the hands-on skills, so the next blended fire academy can only be run in the late spring or summer. Plans are in place to run the academy again in 2020.