Ask an Apprentice

We asked our Apprentice Firefighters about their experience working for CDDFRS so far, this is what they've said:

Apprentice Jack Helps

Apprentice Sophie Wood

Apprentice Evie Peacock

Apprentice Brianna Tweddall

Apprentice Becca Lillystone

Apprentice B Lillystone

We talked to Apprentice Becca Lillystone about her experience of apprenticeship at CDDFRS, here's what she said:

Q. Can you explain your apprenticeship journey so far? Where it started, where you are now? 
A. My journey started out different to previous apprenticeship courses as we started out during covid 19 times. Things looked a lot different due to the rules and measures put in place for social distancing. We started out with our initial 4 weeks training where we learnt basic pump and ladder drills. We then spent some time after this volunteering at the covid testing and vaccination sites across Durham and Darlington where we worked alongside NHS staff, armed forces and volunteers. Moving on from volunteering at these sites we were put onto our risk critical training course looking at different modules to prepare us to head out onto station. Trauma, RTC (Road Traffic Collisions), BA (Breathing Apparatus), Water Rescue, Working at Height to name a few areas we developed our knowledge. Currently we are out on station now spending around 8 weeks at stations across the county attending incidents and helping the public in their time of need. We have recently started our Business Fire Safety Qualification, where we will learn how to conduct audits in small premises. 
Q. How are you finding juggling your apprenticeship alongside your job?
A. Its working really well so far, as we are now starting college and learning about the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order. We are shadowing Firefighters on our watches whilst they conduct an audit of a premise and this is helping us have an insight into Business Fire Safety. During shift, time is allocated for us to complete any coursework we have unless the bells go in! Firefighters on station are there to offer any help and advice with our college work.  
Q. What sort of skills have you developed as an Apprentice Firefighter?
A. I feel as though I have developed many new skills during the past few months. Becoming part of such a close-knit group of people from all backgrounds has really shown me the true meaning of a team and how everyone plays a key role within incidents and day to day station life. Compassion and care is something I’ve come to develop more of, as working with the public during their hour of need and dealing with families at incidents has really been a big area I’ve learnt a lot about. Learning the foundation knowledge of roles and responsibilities expected of me in my training allow me to complete the role of a firefighter, through courses and learning off fellow crew members has allowed me to work to the best of my abilities. I am constantly learning new skills day in day out in this job.
Q. What made you decide to become an Apprentice Firefighter?
A. From a young age, I can remember the local crews coming into my primary school to do a talk on bonfire night and how to be safe. We looked around the appliance and spoke to the firefighters and from then I really thought that what’s want to be when I grow up. I love how every day is different and that I’m able to provide help and support in my local area is the main reason I decided to become an Apprentice Firefighter

Q. Can you explain what it’s like to work for an emergency service?
A. It is an absolute honour and a privilege to work for an emergency service, being able to serve and protect our local communities really is something special and I’m proud to be able to say that. Seeing first-hand the way a service runs, from the minute the 999 calls goes into control, to crews attending incidents really is something to see, just how everyone plays a key role to ensure the community has help when it is required. We have also attended incidents and worked alongside other emergency staff such as Paramedics, GNAAS, Police working together as one to provide the best service possible to those who need it. After seeing first-hand how each service plays a part during an incident, it was a really heart-warming moment for me and it made me proud to be part of the emergency services. Witnessing the work and efforts from staff in all services together, whether it be the fire service extricating a casualty out of a car then to see the Ambulance Crews and Paramedics treatment and care of the casualty is really something I’m privileged to have witnessed and been a part of.

Q. What is the best part of your job and being an apprentice?
A. For me the best part of the job is attending incidents and making a real difference within our communities. To be able to serve the people of County Durham and Darlington and help them feel safe is a privilege. In their time of need they look to us to come up with a solution to fix whatever problem stands in front of us and its such a great feeling knowing we’ve made an impact on their life however big or small it may be. No two days are ever the same in this job and each day a new challenge arises and we have to put a plan in place to complete the task ahead is what makes it the best job! I get to work alongside some exceptional people within the service who have fountains of knowledge that they share, that helps me grow and in time will help me to be the best Firefighter that I can be.
Q. Where do you see yourself in the future? What do you hope to do next?
A. In time I see myself becoming settled into a watch and gain a wealth of knowledge and experience to help me to become competent. I haven’t really got a plan of what’s next I’m just looking forward to time on station and just learning from every opportunity thrown my way. However, I suppose the saying the sky is the limit can apply here who knows what can happen!
Q. Can you offer any tips or advice for people who want to become Apprentice Firefighters?
A. Any advice for anyone thinking about applying would be 100% to apply – it’s hands down for me the best job if you love challenging yourself and working as a team to be able to help people. For the application process I would definitely recommend to look online at the practice tests to help with that part of the application process. Make sure to keep on top of your fitness and strength training, and finally research about the brigade and what the apprenticeship is all about! 

Apprentice Hollie Codling

Apprentice Hollie Codling

Next we spoke with Apprentice Hollie Codling:

Q. Can you explain your apprenticeship journey? Where it started, where you are now?
A. Just under 5 years ago I joined the service as a Firefighter Apprentice on the first cohort of apprentices, I applied after working for the voluntary fire Brigade in New Zealand and enjoying the job there. In the first 2 years of the apprenticeship I worked around Headquarters and around the service stations, whilst learning the role of being a firefighter and doing my initial training. I did another 2 years gaining my competency as a firefighter and now work at Peterlee Station on the Blue watch. 

Q. How did you find juggling your apprenticeship alongside your job?
A. There was a fair amount of coursework to do with the apprenticeship, however I balanced this whenever I had time available working around the stations to try and get it completed,

Q. What sort of skills did you develop as an Apprentice Firefighter?
A. During my apprenticeships I feel that I gained the experience I needed to work as a firefighter, but I also learned the importance of working as part of a team, resilience and the courage to do the tasks required in my role. 

Q. What made you decide to become an Apprentice Firefighter?
A. After I worked as a volunteer firefighter in New Zealand, I came back to the UK and really missed the comradeship and enjoyment I had gained from that role. This was the main reason I decided to become an apprentice firefighter. 

Q. Can you explain what it’s like to work for an emergency service?
A. Working for an emergency service involves gathering skills from all aspects of your life and applying them in different situations and the tasks required from day to day can be very different. Working as part of a team is a key part of many emergency service roles, as is adaptability. One day as a firefighter for example may require completing safe and wellbeing visits, doing fire safety audits and training. Another day may be filled up with incidents of varying degrees and situations. 

Q. What is the best part of your job and what was the best part of being an apprentice?
A. The best part of my job for me has always been the challenge. I like to build my skills, adapt and grow as a person and this is a role that you ca always improve upon – you can always train more, learn more and will always be faced with new situations that challenge you in different ways. 

Q. Where do you see yourself in the future? What do you hope to do next?
A. In the future I would like to continue to develop my skills as a firefighter and see where this takes me. I have recently trained to be a High Volume Pump operative on Peterlee Station which has been an interesting new experience. 

Q. Can you offer any tips or advice for people who want to become Apprentice Firefighters?
A. Taking on the role of being an apprentice firefighter will be an interesting new experience, I imagine, that requires a lot of training and time but is well worth the patience for those who are interested in being a firefighter. Apprenticeships are great for people who want to grow into a role, whilst also learning additional skills and gaining experience from all aspects of the service that they work in.