Forest Grove is a small town in Oregon, but it might have a large role to play for getting veterans jobs in the state and around the nation. According to the News-Times, Forest Grove Fire & Rescue is the first fire department in the state that has had its student-volunteer program approved as an official On-The-Job (OTJ) training program, which means the VA can now pay veterans serving as student-volunteer firefighters (formerly “interns”) in the same way it pays apprentices in other fields.
A firefighting career has been a logical landing spot for former servicemembers, as the profession requires teamwork, camaraderie, and being able to keep your head in dangerous and even life-threatening situations. The Forest Grove program may open the doors for other firefighting programs to join OTJ.
Such approval is “extremely uncommon across the nation,” said Kate Nicholson, education liaison with the VA. “I only know of one other state that has this type of OTJ program for firefighters.”
“A majority of veterans who come back from active duty have ‘combat’ as their skill set,” said John Kersey, who handled the OTJ approval at Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries.
“How does that translate into the workforce? Well, it doesn’t,” Kersey said — except in fields like law enforcement, firefighting/paramedics or private security.
Firefighting is a great post-military career, according to FGF&R Fire Marshal Dave Nemeyer. With their hierarchies of lieutenants, captains and such, fire departments are already somewhat paramilitary, he said.
In addition, “Fire service is sort of changing,” Nemeyer said. “It used to be 20-year-olds straight out of community college applying to be firefighters, but now we’re looking at guys and girls who have a lot of life experience.”
For more veteran job listings, feel free to check out the Military.com Veteran Jobs Center. And if you happen to be looking at a firefighting career, you might want to present this article to your local fire department and see if they can work out an arrangement similar to Forest Grove’s.