SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The Springfield Fire Department (SFD) is now representing Missouri on a national scale. Assistant Fire Chief Olan Morelan says SFD is the first fire department in the state to join the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) apprenticeship program.
“We want our training that we do here to be recognized on a federal level,” Morelan said. “With the oversight and the support of the federal government in that way.”
SFD is training 46 recruits in the new program. Rodrick Icenhower is one of them.
“It’s the most professional thing I’ve ever been involved in,” Icenhower said. “I’ve expressed that to the chiefs and stuff that I’ve appreciated the opportunity to be involved. Learning more about the fire department is neat, but just being able to be part of something so professional where they care and make it a family environment is great.”
Through activities like morning workouts, Icenhower will eventually learn 6,000 hours worth of material.
“The big thing I’ve learned is professionalism and accountability,” Icenhower said. “This whole program is built on it. Once you get involved in this, you see how much you’re needed. The education that goes into it to make you prepared for that station life.”
Since the SFD joined the DOL apprenticeship program, Icenhower has trained with firefighters from across the Ozarks.
“Our partnership with Workforce Development will allow us to put more firefighters on the street regardless of where they work,” Assistant Fire Chief Morelan said. “Somebody that comes through our apprenticeship may end up working at Logan-Rogersville, Ozark or Willard. That would be their decision. We’ll have the training here and help them for that.”
Morelan says he hopes the partnership with the DOL will help departments around Missouri find workers.
“There are a lot of departments that are in need of firefighters,” Morelan said. “We want to help fill that void. I’ve said many times if the regional departments are out of people or they’re running short on staff, then we are as well. We are a joint endeavor here. So, if there’s a border call, we go to those calls hoping they have the same amount of staffing that we have. That’s super important to us.”
What’s also important to Morelan is creating a pathway into the industry.
“There are people out there that are working and trying to make ends meet but they want to change careers,” Morelan said. “This should facilitate them and will give them an opportunity to change careers, and then start to work inside the community.”
This is a three-year program, but those who already have experience working in the field can graduate even sooner.