Home » Firefighter Recruitment: why are millennials and gen Z not applying for firefighter jobs?

Who are millennials and gen Z?

Millennials and Gen Z are cohorts that represent attitudes and behaviors that are similar. According to Pew Research Center, Millenials were born between 1981 and 1996. Millennials are now ranging from ages 23 to 38 and it’s estimated this population numbered 73 million in the U.S. in 2019. Those born from 1997 forward are commonly referred to as “Gen Z.” Members of this group are also reaching adulthood, with the oldest of this generation between 18-23.

Each generation has a unique view of the world as well as needs and expectations shaped by the time they grew up in and the experiences they had. Understanding these is key to hiring and retaining the next generation of firefighters.

So, why are millennials and gen Z not applying for firefighter jobs?

  • “The State of Gig Work” 

Gig Work originated due to the development of the internet, allowing people to connect with consumers and make money through short-term and non-committed jobs such as delivery drivers, design freelancers, online video bloggers, or digital content creators. More and more of the workforce are taking on these ‘gigs’ rather than volunteering or joining Fire Services. As Chief John M. Buckman III recently wrote, “The world has changed. People no longer have the free time to devote to becoming a volunteer firefighter and/or EMT…and many would rather give money to the volunteer fire department than their time.”

  • “The Great Resignation”

In the newest report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a record number (4.3 million) of American workers quit their jobs while US employers had more positions to fill than ever before. With the massive amount of opportunity in the US market, this is making it more difficult for fire departments to recruit.

  • Competitive wage and benefits

Even though the majority of firefighters don’t choose this career for the money, it is clear that “ federal firefighter pay ridiculously low,” said President Biden. And a former wildland firefighter, Stephen Pyne also said with the rush of “the gig economy,” offers “relatively low wages, seasonal, very low career advancement” will lead to “a lot of unhappy workers in today’s economy.”

  • Leadership and Culture

Fire Departments are rich in culture and tradition, which may not always align with the expectations of the next-generation workforce. Today’s Fire Department across the country are looking at how they can update and modernize their work environment, processes, practices and culture in order to attract and retain the next generation of Firefighters. 

  • Long work processes, outdated methodology

Being a firefighter means working long hours, facing dangerous situations in a stressful environment. Going into an emergency ‘blind’ without relevant and critical information is a common firefighter experience. Despite technology being available that can save time and reduce risk, many fire departments still believe the old techniques using paper and folders is the only way. Meanwhile, mobile technology with instant access and relevant information is available and is a game-changer for next-generation firefighters.

  • Diversity and Inclusion

When potential candidates don’t see someone who looks like them in recruitment materials or the media, they may be reluctant to apply. Fire departments today must be representative of the community demographics, to support recruitment efforts.  

  • Training and Risk Reduction / Firefighter Safety

The next generation of the workforce is keenly focused on health and safety – including the environment. Firefighting is a high-risk occupation and Departments must demonstrate their commitment to Firefighter Safety and Risk Reduction.

As a Fire Chief, it is crucial to recognize the problems in the recruiting process. But figuring out solutions for this is even more critical. That is why APX Data created a guide on Recruitment for the Modern Fire Department. Get is now and take a deeper look into recruitment in the fire service. It should help you to be proactive, prepared, and help your department attract and recruit the next generation of FireFighters.

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