At a press conference on Wednesday, Palliser Regional Schools announced that students in Grades 11 and 12 at Coaldale’s Kate Andrews High School will soon be able to participate in a fire academy.
“It’s going to be a two-year program. Students will start in Grade 11 and in that first year, they’re going to get first aid, CPR training,” Coaldale fire Chief Kevin McKeown said. “They’re going to get ICS 100 and they’re going to get the medical first response course through (Northern Alberta Institute of Technology). The second year of the program is where we shift into fire.”
McKeown says the students will receive the same training, regulations and certifications that firefighters in Coaldale have received. Applications for the program are already being accepted, but with a limited number of spots available, not everyone will be able to join.
“The two-year program is not going to be easy. It’s going to be tough, it’s going to take a lot of sacrifice,” McKeown said. “We just want to make sure we have people that really want to be here and are going to apply themselves.”
The training will take place inside school hours, consisting of three-hour blocks in the afternoon in the first year and four-hour blocks in the second year. Depending on the success of the academy, Palliser Regional Schools believes this type of learning model could be expanded to other careers.
“I’m sure there are other avenues we could pursue with other post-secondary institutions,” Palliser Regional Schools’ director of learning Jason Kupery said. “It’s a really nice way for them to learn a practical life skill that they can use for the rest of their life whether that be first aid, fire safety or any of those types of things. That’s something that they can carry throughout their life and carry into other positions or other careers if they want to.”
Palliser Regional Schools has received a $50,000 grant from the government of Alberta to support the academy.
“A lot of it is going to go to personal protective equipment that needs to be purchased,” Kupery said. “We have 18 students, and all the gear that they’re going to need, we can use it from year to year, but the initial startup costs are quite high.”
Students will be able to earn both high school and post-secondary credits through the program.
There will be 18 students involved in the academy in its first year, which starts in September.