Achieving my lifelong goal of becoming a firefighter: Mitchell's story
"Ever since I was born, firefighting is something that’s been in my family," Mitchell Deal said.
"My Grandad worked for London Fire Brigade before coming to Essex and then my Dad worked for this Service for 30 years, too. It’s always been the only thing that I’ve wanted to do."
Last year, Mitchell finally achieved his lifelong goal of becoming a firefighter - continuing his family’s proud tradition.
After completing his training late last year, he has since been based on Green Watch at one of our Service’s busiest Fire Stations: Basildon.
"Some days it feels like a real challenge, but I’m constantly learning and it's exactly what I thought it would be like - really rewarding.
"The watch have all been so welcoming and, coincidentally, there are two other recruits here who came through the previous squad last summer. That’s been really helpful to have them with that bit more knowledge of what to expect, but it also makes our training easier because we can do it all together."
More than a workplace
Basildon Fire Station is much more than just Mitchell’s place of work. When he was 16, he took part in a Young Firefighters Course to get hands-on experience of firefighting - something which worked to motivate him further in his ambition.
"I'm 25 now, but I still remember that course quite clearly. It was a weekly course over about three months and was something that not only motivated me to get to where I am today, but also helped me to improve my attitude and life skills."
Incredibly, when Mitchell completed his training and 'passed out', he was amazed to see a familiar face - one of the instructors from that same course.
Gary Dyer, the Course Instructor who is now part of our Technical Fire Safety team, said: "Mitchell recognised me straightaway and he remembered me telling him how it took me eight attempts over 12 years to become a firefighter: thankfully it wasn't so hard for him!
"That message we gave him then of never giving up and following your dreams is something that he's made a reality. The fact that we inspired him to do that is something that I am very proud of - and I was blown away that he recognised me after all those years.
"Of course, there’s no 'one size fits all' route into our Service, but this shows that dedication and persistence pays off."
Going through the process
"Not once did I think I would get the job until I actually did - because it’s just so competitive. I knew that 1200 people had applied for such a small number of roles, and when you think about it like that, there aren’t many jobs like it.”
Mitchell's road to become a firefighter began last Spring when he secured one of 1200 spaces available to candidates.
Once he'd done that, he began navigating the necessary stages using our dedicated website for applicants.
"Once I’d got my place, the next step was an online test. The website you use as a candidate is brilliant at keeping you informed on what’s coming up - I could go online and know really quickly what the next step was and when it would be. That really helped me to know what I had to prepare for and how long I had to do it."
And preparation, Mitchell says, is key for what followed.
"The fitness tests were a combination of strength and fitness. I put some work into learning what the tests were and getting myself ready so that on the day, I knew what to expect.
"In the end, it wasn’t too bad – because you overhype it in your head, but the test challenges everyone in different ways.
By now, Mitchell was gaining more and more confidence that he might finally achieve his goal – with just one more challenge to navigate.
"I knew I was getting nearer and nearer. The interviews were the final part - and more than anything it was about showing the dedication that I had done throughout the process.
"It might seem daunting, but if you stay motivated to get through the different stages, you can definitely do it."
"Especially now that a few squads of new recruits have gone through recently, the chances are that if you do pop in to a wholetime station to meet a crew, you might actually meet someone like me who’s just been through the process.
"We can give you a heads up on what station life is like and what you need to do to be successful in recruitment. When I was applying, I visited my local station – and I think it made all the difference.
"Do your research beforehand on what you need to do and make sure you prepare," Mitchell concluded.