To receive a report on recruitment issues within the Fire Service, particularly relating to BAME.
Mark Preece presented the GFRS Recruitment and Selection Review report to the Committee.
Members noted that the report provided a review of the Service’s recent whole time firefighter recruitment process, which took place between January and May 2021.
Members were informed that a new recruitment strategy had been introduced, which included having a process that was strengths based, taking into account an individual’s values and behaviours.
Members were advised that positive action for the recruitment campaign had been hindered by the pandemic, however in order to improve focus in this area, GFRS and GCC had now appointed a Culture and Inclusion Manager who started with the Service in October 2021.
969 applications were received in response to the recruitment campaign, which, following a postcode sift, pre-sift and full sift, was reduced to 198 applications. Following evaluation days, the activities of which were detailed in the report, 80 applicants were put through fitness testing and final interviews. On completion of this process, 18 candidates were offered an immediate job and 22 were offered a position in a succession pool.
It was explained to members that the recruitment process had been thoroughly evaluated and a few improvements had been flagged, including the need to improve the information available on their website.
A breakdown of candidate statistics had been produced following the recruitment process. In particular, it was noted that 40 percent of the successful applicants were women, 15 percent were mixed race/minority ethnic, 20 percent identified as LGBT+, and 13 percent had a disability.
The Committee discussed the report and the information they had been presented with.
One member queried whether the percentage of female applicants increased as the process went along because they were more likely to take their application seriously? In response, it was explained that female applicants had a wide range of interpersonal skills to offer the role of being a firefighter as well as being able to pass the fitness tests.
It was clarified, following a query, that all successful candidates passed the same fitness and entry tests. Should a candidate fail a fitness test marginally, they were offered the chance to take the test again.
Another member queried whether the Service had learned lessons from the data and had since considered the way it advertised its posts to attract a wider audience? They also commented that it would have been helpful to have data on the percentage of the various different communities within the general population for comparison.
In response, the CFO explained that going forward they were keen to work with the new Inclusion Manager to address this issue in order to be able to engage with a wider audience during the recruitment process.
In response to a question as to what was being done to address the culture of the fire service, it was explained that an action plan had been developed with a range of activities, including engaging with a company on conscious bias training which would be rolled out to middle managers, engaging with the local mosque and friendship café to develop local relationships, and training two champions to focus on the issue.
Cllr Dave Norman, Cabinet Member for Public Protection, Parking and Libraries, informed members that he had taken on the role of the Local Government Association Fire Diversity and Inclusion Champion on behalf of GCC and GFRS. He explained that of 45 fire authorities in the UK, sadly only 22 were represented on that network. He also queried whether progression opportunities for those from the BAME community in the Service needed to be looked at?
There was a query as to whether there needed to be a continual recruitment process? In response, it was understood that the recruitment process was resource intensive as there was not a dedicated team for recruitment. Having a succession pool meant that they could respond to staff turnover.
It was noted that the retention of firefighters needed to be monitored. It was suggested that an update providing an overview of the expectations for GFRS recruitment and retention over the next five years be provided to the Committee.