Sterling Heights

Could a 'junior academy' be the answer to firefighter shortages?

When it comes to facing the nation-wide shortage of recruits, the Sterling Heights Fire Department has a plan. Fire Chief Chris Martin proposed new programs at the city’s annual strategic planning meeting to build awareness and encourage careers as a first responder.

The proposal, put to city council at the January meeting, would allow the fire department to engage with Utica Community Schools (UCS) in an effort to educate high school students about careers as a first responder. The proposal would also provide the opportunity for college students to work as cadets within the fire department to gain experience. 

“If we are serious about wanting to bring successful candidates into our organization, and help them along the way in their career as a first responder, I think this is the way to go,” said Martin. 

The proposed program would run in conjunction with medical education programs at UCS and aims to host students in a  “Junior Fire Academy” to learn career basics.

“This would include some hands-on activities that would expose them to the skills required to be a firefighter and paramedic,” said Martin, “While at the same time not exposing them to any dangers of the profession.”

Martin believes that collaborating with schools will also help with diversity recruitment. 

“Our high schools reflect the diversity in our community,” he said. “If we can engage any high school student of any gender or race to enter the fire service, this could help them be successful in the future.”

The plan has been submitted for budget approval from the city, with final approval to be decided in May.
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Kate Roff is an award-winning freelance writer and journalism educator, currently based out of Detroit. She is the managing editor of Metromode and Model D. Contact her at