Canadian Firefighter Magazine

From the editor: The networking piece

Laura Aiken   


This month’s cover feature shares the story of the closure of the Ontario Fire College’s Gravenhurst campus with firefighters across Canada. This Ontario landmark at the mouth of Muskoka has played a central role in training the province’s firefighters since 1949. That’s 72 years. Seven decades of memories have informed a collective legacy. 

After the initial shock in January that the Gravenhurst campus would be permanently shuttered and training in Ontario would move to a regionalized model, the province’s fire service is now adapting to what’s to come. Announcements about new regional training centres have popped up in the news and much discussion has been posited as to what curriculum may be more effectively delivered online. Fire fighting is a tactile skill-set and that hands-on requirement has been an important conversation. 

The fear that seems to prevail — the unknown in the aftermath — is not what will be pragmatically gained, but what could be subjectively lost. Networking and comradery are emotional pieces that pain many who are upset over the loss of the campus. As anyone who has attended a college or university for a stint can attest, the experience is beyond instruction. A reflective narrative of time spent in colleges or universities is always a mix of what happened in and out of class. Uncomfortable beds and noisy nights are a rite of educational passage. Sometimes when we say the word networking, we think of talking to people for a specific career gain, but as humans we are far more altruistic in seeking connections with others. Making friends and meeting others we admire that we want to learn from are certainly ways to help a career, but they are also the ways in which we support our personal development, stretching ourselves in the novel ways in which we interact with the world. 

The pandemic has forced a reconsideration of the time and money spent on the road furthering our education and networking opportunities. This rethink has not concluded removal, far from it. There are many who are eager to get back to getting together in bigger numbers with new and familiar faces. Gathering to educate as a group in an environment with fewer typical distractions with the additional opportunity to immerse overnight is of high value and that notion has far from gone away. Regional training centres offer the opportunity to meet with those beyond your department, bringing fresh perspectives and conversation to training. There is no way to quantify if this will still be as valuable for personal development as attending a campus, which serves as a natural conduit for mass congregation, but it could still be effective. This may depend on how individuals approach it. The plan in motion is the way forward in Ontario. Time and assessment will undoubtedly refine the system, for though the fire service may joke amongst itself about being resistant to change, they are most serious in their aspirations to improve.  


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