Strengthening The Firefighter Workforce

When there’s a fire in rural Wisconsin, the firetruck doesn’t come barreling down the bend at the drop of a hat. It takes time to get out there — even more time when the workforce is strained.

Start College Now at Madison Area Technical College offers a high school fire academy that aims to boost that workforce. Ernesto Martinez, better known as chief by his students, is a retired fire chief from the Madison Fire Department. He’s been teaching at MATC for about 20 years as one of the three lead instructors for the fire academy. 

Martinez says the program has grown exponentially in southern Wisconsin. In addition to the Fire Academy, they also have EMS courses.

He says high school isn’t too early to start training. He says some students aren’t focusing on going to college or don’t know what they want to pursue after high school. If student have all the credits they need to graduate and want to do something different, this academy is a technical, hands-on, unique opportunity. In addition, tuition is covered by the high school and students can earn college credit.

In addition, most students are hired as interns at their local fire department and respond to fires.