National Apprenticeship Week 2021: Tariq’s story
Firefighter Tariq Khan has been a firefighter for 15 years. He’s part of Blue Watch at Basildon Fire Station and alongside his role as a firefighter, he’s working towards a Personal Training Instructor apprenticeship.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Tariq became a firefighter after realising he didn’t want to work in an office. He said: “I wanted a career where I had the opportunity to be active and help people.”
Being active is a big part of being a firefighter and maintaining your fitness level is critical to the role. Each year, our firefighters take a fitness test to ensure their fitness levels are up to scratch.
As a new way to encourage fitness and wellbeing in our fire stations, our Service Fitness team worked with the Fire Brigades Union’s learning centre to introduce a Personal Training Instructor (PTI) apprenticeship for anyone interested in learning more about fitness and nutrition.
Tariq is one of 12 firefighters on the PTI course.
“I have always had a strong interest in fitness and training. I have spent a good portion of my career training with my watch and organising circuits for our day shifts. It made perfect sense to look into the apprenticeship and gain a better understanding of fitness as a whole,” said Tariq.
“It has given me the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of fitness, anatomy and physiology, nutrition and the scientific evidence to support different styles and training techniques,” Tariq said. “Working with other colleagues from around the service with similar interests has been an absolute highlight.”
Like many other organisations across the world, we’ve had to adapt during the Covid-19 pandemic and for our PTI apprentices, that meant taking their learning online.
Tariq said: “Much of the training was carried out via Zoom calls and private study. I was given time to achieve this study by the service. A massive credit to the apprenticeship was the work put in by our tutor. The work he put in on the Zoom sessions and helping us all with learning from home was absolutely vital to the success of our course this year.”
For anyone considering an apprenticeship alongside their job role, Tariq’s advice is: “It’s absolutely worth considering however be aware that it takes up a fair amount of time and commitment to complete the workload.”
Clare Smith, Fitness Manager said: ”I am really proud to be involved in the PTI apprenticeship the Service is currently supporting. The group of personnel that are close to finishing their PTI apprenticeship have worked extremely hard during the course; especially keeping focused during this challenging time.
“All the apprentices have gained a wealth of knowledge in all types of fitness training that they can bring back to station and help support their colleagues in maintaining fitness standards. I believe having this link with the PTIs on station will aid the fitness team in their aim to support all service personnel with fitness and wellbeing. They should all be very proud of themselves and are a value to the service.”
Matt Norris, Fitness Advisor, has completed the course himself and encourages others to consider the apprenticeship to learn more about fitness and nutrition.
Matt said: “The course takes a very in depth look at different training methods, physiology and nutrition, meaning those on the course are going to be able to take a lot of knowledge back to stations.
“This will benefit the watches greatly as while the fitness team is always here to help anyone who would like any advice or support with their fitness, some people may feel more comfortable asking a watch member for guidance.
“Having been on the course myself, I know that everybody on it will be able to offer really valuable fitness advice. They will also be a link between stations and the fitness team, meaning they can feed back to the fitness team anything they need to and they can be our first port of call for anything fitness related at the station.”
In January 2019, we introduced an apprenticeship programme as part of our wholetime firefighter training course.
Firefighter Kieran Godfree was part of the first squad to start the Level 3 Operational Firefighting Apprenticeship and completed the 18-month programme in 2021.
Kieran, who came from a background of A&E nursing, said he is pleased he overcame challenges as the new apprenticeship was being established.
He said: “Initially the programme was very bumpy and challenging with regards to planning and resources. The coronavirus pandemic brought its own barriers too, so as an apprentice it was somewhat isolating and sometimes stressful.
“I observed courage and professionalism within my squad to overcome such difficulties. My squad and our Service cooperated in open and honest discussions to help resolve and alleviate problems.
“This prompted the start of the Apprenticeship Trailblazer Team that helped with communication and my learning and development.”
Kieran recently completed his End Point Assessment – the final test for apprentices.
He said the apprenticeship has given him a greater understanding of the duties of a modern firefighter and how research and Government legislation leads to improvements, as well as increasing his confidence in his own knowledge and skills.
He urged anyone on an apprenticeship or thinking of applying for one to take the time to enjoy what they are learning and be resilient if they encounter challenges.
Kieran said: “Apprenticeships aren’t easy but don’t let them be a burden; find the time to enjoy the work-life balance and remember that communication with your manager and apprenticeship team is key.”
Harry Murray joined us in August 2018 on a five-year Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) Technical Engineering apprenticeship with our Fleet Services team.
He is part of a team based in Lexden, Colchester, making sure more than 430 vehicles, including fire engines, and 15,000 pieces of equipment are ready and working to keep Essex safe.
Harry is 25, so felt he had signed up as an apprentice relatively late. However, he is delighted to have found a career he really enjoys.
He said: “I had a few different jobs before starting the apprenticeship – including maintenance at a school and lifeguarding – but none of them were careers. It feels really good to build a career in something I enjoy doing.
“It’s different week to week and day to day, which is really good. The variety of the work makes the job even more interesting, it could be anything from working on pumps on fire appliances to working on our rescue boats.
“Sometimes I am working with another engineer but I also get the opportunity to do bits and pieces on my own.”
The Fleet Services team, which has had an Investors in People accreditation since 2001, showing it puts its colleagues first, is a great place for an apprentice to learn with a vast amount of experience at hand.
Three colleagues have more than 40 years’ experience and the average staff retention is about 20 years.
Harry said: “It’s a good place to work. My colleagues have done the job for a long time and they give me advice and pass on their experience.
“I’ve passed all of the exams in the first stage and will have more assessments over the next two-and-a-half years.
“I’d certainly recommend an apprenticeship to anyone looking to build a career.”
Amy Kattenhorn works in our Human Resources team. She said:
“I love working here. We make a difference to people’s everyday lives – in their communities and across the county.
“Every day I know that the work I am doing is really benefitting our team and I’m making a difference. I feel like I come in each day and whatever is thrown at me, I’ll take it on.
“It’s great when you haven’t actually met someone, but you’ve been in touch with them over the phone or email and then when they come into our Service Headquarters, they go out of their way to say ‘hello’.
“That really helps me to feel like they value what I’m doing and how I’ve helped them.
“People always show a genuine interest in what it is specifically that I do and that makes me feel really proud.”
Emilija Juseviciute joined the office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex in December 2021 as the Apprentice Public Relations and Communications Assistant. Alongside working in the office, Emilija is also completing her Level 4 PR and Communications Assistant qualification which involves an online monthly masterclass sessions with support from a learning advisor and a skills coach
“Before I joined the apprenticeship, I was working in a completely different job sector, but I was always interested in the digital marketing, social media and communications world. So, when I saw this position, I thought it would be a great opportunity to get some new skills and learn more about the industry.
“Working as an apprentice at the PFCC has allowed me to venture into different areas of the job and explore which aspects I enjoy. I have learnt a lot about myself and developed skills in creativity, copywriting and campaigns planning.
“I have had the opportunity to work with partners and stakeholders in different teams to give me an idea of how other teams work, as well as building relationships with those colleagues, which is a vital part of the role.
“The first three months of the job, I was fortunate enough to be involved in the planning of the PFCC annual conference. This was really enjoyable, and I got first hand experience of organising, planning and running an event.
“My favourite part of the job has been applying the theory from my lessons to the job and seeing it work. The learning I have received has strengthened my knowledge of the industry and has allowed me to develop into a PR and Comms professional.
“I was worried about stepping into an apprenticeship in my mid-20s, but it was the best decision I made for my career. If you are thinking of applying for an apprenticeship, I would highly recommend it. You are learning on the job whilst getting paid, I don’t know why more people don’t do it. “