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How One County in Maryland Reached A Majority Minority Recruiting Class

In October 2016, Howard County, Maryland, led by Fire Chief John Butler and praised by County Executive Allan H. Kittleman, welcomed its most diverse firefighter/paramedic trainee class ever. “We continue to build a department that is more reflective of the diversity in our community,” Kittleman said. “We know our ranks are the strongest when we embrace diversity to the fullest and open the doors of opportunity to all.”

How’d they do it? We asked Chief Butler to provide us with what they did to reach this feat, and what tips he has for other departments looking to model their department recruitment and retention efforts after what Howard County managed.

Here's what Chief Butler had to share --

When considering recruitment strategies, it’s best to keep in mind your end goal. 

For us, we envisioned hiring a culturally diverse group of individuals who will not only affect positive change in our community, but also have the knowledge and drive to progress in our department throughout their careers.

Here are some tips to consider while recruiting for your department, some of which we accomplished:

  • Know the rules. Get reliable legal and human resource advice as to what you can do and cannot do, as it relates to recruitment strategies.
  • Take the time to develop a community analysis of your jurisdiction
    - What is your population growth rate?
    - What are the demographics in your jurisdiction?
    - What are the strategies for recruitment that reflect those demographics
  • Establish an “employees-led” recruitment team with individuals representing different ethnicities, tenure with the department, and educational backgrounds. Inclusiveness is key! 
  • Meet with and distribute recruitment materials at specific locations, sometimes not typically considered, such as:
    - Faith-based organizations 
    - Wellness and Fitness centers
    - Ethnocentric festivals, retailers, and merchants
  • Work with local and national affinity groups and network at their hosted events 
  • Participate at veterans job fairs
  • Collaborate/partner with law enforcement recruiters
  • Be dialed into the community either via newspapers, newsletters, and/or social media. Know what events are happening; when and where.
  • Combine community outreach programs such as citizen CPR with recruitment efforts.
  • Target institutions of higher education, to name a few areas but not limited to:
    - Nursing and other allied health students may be interested in out of hospital health care
    - Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs
    - Business and Management programs
    - Vocational and Technical training institutions

Other items to note about the noteworthy Howard County trainee class:

  • Of the 36 applicants selected for the 26-week Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Fire training academy, 20 are women or other culturally diverse trainees.
  • The class contains nine women, including those having African-American, Asian, and Hispanic ethnicities.
  • Of the male trainees, there are also those who have African-American, Asian, and Hispanic ethnicities.

Trainee Class 29 has eight people who are bilingual. Languages they speak include: Chinese, French, Korean, Russian and Spanish.

For more information on Howard County, please contact the Public Information Office at 410-313-6039.

John Butler is fire chief of Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue, and a member of the IAFC Human Relations Committee.


What methods is your department using to diversity your recruit class? How are you working to expand your department, and its diverse workforce? Let us know @IAFC on Twitter.


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