With the pending retirement of the Captain Ken Younghusband, the Penticton Fire Department added some new blood to its roster.
Peter Wilkins and Trevor Dermody, who were both formerly auxiliary firefighters, will soon start their new positions as career firefighters with the department. They were the selected candidates thanks to a new hiring practice Chief Larry Watkinson employed within the department.
“Basically over the last three years since I’ve been the fire chief in Penticton, we’ve made some adjustments to our hiring practices,” said Watkinson.
“So the first year we did new psychometric testing which evaluated individual’s capacity for the job as well as a fitness evaluation.”
Watkinson said this psychometric aspect was important because it considered candidate’s mental preparedness, where as a fitness test only considers physical readiness.
“We really define ourselves as character-minded professionals, so (we want) individuals that will bring a strong character to our organization and the community,” said Watkinson.
Watkinson stressed that these positions are very competitive and because they wanted to hire from within the auxiliary, he wanted to challenge the candidates through the interview process. He noted it was very challenging to decide because they had many qualified candidates.
“This year we made a significant change when we added on a new psychometric evaluation, another fitness evaluation that was conducted by a third-party, and added onto our current standards a ride along program,” said Watkinson.
“That was probably the most engaging piece of it.”
The ride along component of the hiring process involved candidates working alongside existing staff as they perform their day-to-day duties.
Watkinson said they tried to vary what the candidates were doing and they still faced high-pressure or potentially high-stressed tasks.
“I think the new ride along program was a big help to (decide) who were the best candidates for the job,” said Dermody. “There was lots of different of processes to go through.”
As auxiliary firefighters, Dermody and Wilkins were already familiar with certain staff in the department but this ride along was a chance to meet and work with new faces.
“Every eight days we do a live-in night at the station (with the auxiliary) for the night shift, but the ride along it was day-time duties,” said Dermody. “So they put us in certain situations to see how we reacted to them.”
“It was a positive experience, I enjoyed watching the day-to-day and how the guys got along and how they did their duties,” said Wilkins. “Everyday is different and I think most of the candidates had pretty quiet days but I think it’s a different perspective as to what the job entails.”
“I liked that this year the process was very heavily focused on your personality and your fit within the organization and your relationships with other firefighters,” said Wilkins.
“I can see how that’s a big part of the job, the relationships you have with each other. It’s not just about your level of fitness or writing a test.”
Watkinson also used the ride along opportunity to hear feedback and questions from staff members as to how the candidates performed.
He said he preferred this way of hiring because his team had a say in the decision, even though overall it was his choice to make.
Wilkins is set to start his new position in the coming weeks and Dermody will begin after the new year.
For now, both have resumed their duties with the auxiliary and are happy they get the opportunity to be part of the Penticton Fire Department’s team.
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Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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