Executive Officer Leadership: Professional Development for the Entire Organizational Chart

One of the questions many training officers and fire chiefs struggle with is how to structure professional and career development programs within their departments. Many professional-development programs in fire service agencies focus on moving a person up through the organization, but seldom if ever identify how to challenge those who wish to simply serve their department at the current level.

In defining position requirements for various positions, we may look at job ads in any professional journal or job-board announcement and note that the minimum requirements are often associated with education. So what tools do we have at our disposal in helping clearly define the career and professional development of our department members?

The National Fire Academy provides a graphic through the National Professional Development Model that focuses on two areas that consist of the approach of “Eyes on the Horizon” or Eyes on the Road (National Fire Academy, 2015). This model uses a combination of certification and education to depict a method by which a person can move through a professional development process.

The NFA has also produced the National Professional Development Matrix (National Fire Academy, 2015). This tool can help create a roadmap to help guide someone through the various stages of professional development.

The approach by the NFA through the National Professional Development Model is designed to do the following:

Collaboratively with the fire and emergency services professional development community to standardize training, education, experience and certification activities and create a national, competency-based professional development system. The national system will help to eliminate duplication of efforts and enhance the overall professional development of the fire and emergency services.

So what tools are available to develop our organizations at all levels and not just those who want to move up through the organization?

While not exhaustive in nature, below is a list of starting points and a definition for each; we can research these to determine which areas fit our organizations and needs.

An important point is that a professional-development program can’t depend on just one area; It should use a blend to ensure a system that uses all the tools to develop department members. The areas we can look to are:

  • Training – The organized activity aimed at imparting information andinstructions to improve the recipient’s performance or to help him or her attain a required level of knowledge or skill. (Business Dictionary, 2015)
  • Certification – An authoritative attestment; specifically, the issuance of a document that states an individual has demonstrated the knowledge and skills necessary to function in a particular fire service professional field. (National Fire Protection Association, 2010)
  • Education – The process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university that results in a degree in a selected major of study.
  • Designation – The recognition of broad career and educational professional accomplishments. (Center for Public Safety Excellence, 2013)
  • Credentials – The marks or stamps of quality and achievement communicating to employers, payers and consumers what to expect from a credentialed specialist.
  • Licensure – The state’s grant of legal authority, pursuant to the state’s police powers, to practice a profession within a designated scope of practice. (National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians, 2015)
  • Recognition of Prior Learning – One of a number of processes for establishing credit or advanced standing. RPL broadens access into formal learning by enabling credit to be given for student achievement though other formal, nonformal or informal learning. (Australian Qualifications Network, 2012)

Each of these tools provides specific and unique characteristics that help develop our personnel initially and continue to develop them throughout their careers.

One of the greatest detriments to any profession is when our people become stagnant and don’t continually develop themselves. The key is that no one person ever wholly arrives. In other words, development of our people should continually challenge them and ensure they remain in a process of continual improvement. 

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