Press release

Meet Tom Jewell – A journey from a firefighter apprentice to international rescue missions

Tom Jewell in Morrocco

In celebration of National Apprenticeship Week, Tom Jewell, Temporary Crew Manager for the Urban Search and Rescue team (USAR), shares his experience of completing the firefighter apprenticeship, which paved the way for his thriving career at Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS). 

Tom was part of the first cohort to go through the Level 3 Operational Firefighting Apprenticeship in 2019.  

The apprenticeship runs alongside operational firefighting training, focusing on a variety of skills from learning about specialist equipment, to safe working practices to treating casualties.  

The course prepares firefighters for all possible scenarios.  

Reflecting on the course, Tom highlighted the flexibility and support it offered him: “The apprenticeship allowed me to work at my own pace using the tools that I know I work best with. 

“Having a mentor to guide and assess my work really helped, I was supported throughout and could turn to them with any issues I had.” 

Tom added that the part he enjoyed the most was practising the skills he had learnt in the training.   

Discussing the challenges faced, Tom recognised the initial struggle to balance workload and applying learnt skills to real incidents. However, with the unwavering support of his Watch, challenges were dealt with smoothly, and he successfully completed the apprenticeship. 

He added: “The apprenticeship has given me the ability to process information and turn it into manageable and structured learning.” 

Since then, Tom’s career at Essex County Fire and Rescue Service has taken off. Moving from a wholetime firefighter at Chelmsford to a USAR technician, he is now Temporary Crew Manager for USAR based at Colchester.  

During his time at USAR he joined the UK International Search and Rescue Team (UKISAR), a voluntary role that requires him to be on standby to respond to major disasters worldwide. He was deployed to Morocco in 2023 with a team of 60 UKISAR firefighters to assist with the large earthquake that devastated the country. 

As Tom looks back on his journey, he encourages new apprentices to enjoy the training, build strong relationships with their teams, and tap into the vast experience of other firefighters who have years of knowledge from attending incidents. 

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