Programs give high school students opportunities with Atlanta Fire & Rescue

The first graduates were given a conditional offer letter, signed by the mayor and the fire chief.
Published: May. 16, 2022 at 5:28 PM EDT|Updated: May. 16, 2022 at 5:40 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - Efforts are underway to fix a shortage of firefighters in Atlanta. One program could help fill the gaps by putting high school graduates to work with some intriguing incentives.

A bright future is coming into focus for these recent high school grads. The Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation and Atlanta Fire & Rescue recently came together to celebrate the first Cadet Signing Day.

”That is huge for the future of the fire gives those high school youths an opportunity to start a sustainable career,” said Chief Roderick “Rod” M. Smith with Atlanta Fire & Rescue.

The programs were launched a few years ago to inspire Atlanta high school kids to go directly into community work, just like the city’s current chief.

”You don’t have to make the choice between college and career. The Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation Programs allow you to come in at 18 years old, make a $40,000 salary and, once you are done, we will step in with a college scholarship,” said Shirley Ann Smith with Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation. “Being able to give students the option of having both, almost like the military, is really how we exemplify that Atlanta does it best!”

When the pandemic hit, the organization was forced to hit pause. The programs were able to get rolling again in 2021. The first graduates were given a conditional offer letter, signed by the mayor and the fire chief.

”They haven’t even graduated high school and on Saturday, they were signing a letter of employment saying, ‘Once I graduate, I will have a full-time job waiting for me,’” said Smith.

Mayor Andre Dickens says the program is one way recruiting efforts are beefing up. He toured Station 26 in Buckhead Monday, encouraging voters to show up to the polls on May 24 to pass bond issues that would replace the station and three others built decades ago. The stations have mold and infrastructure issues. He says he wants to replace old equipment and update technology.

”There is a workers shortage across the nation in various industries and the fire service is just one. We are diligent in working to make sure we are beefing up our recruitment efforts. Part of this pay raise is to head down a path of making sure we are more attractive at Atlanta Fire & Rescue Department, for people to want to join the fire service,” said Mayor Andre Dickens, City of Atlanta.

Fire Chief Smith says there are about 100 people in training right now but it will take 12-14 months to get them in the field.

If you are interested in more information about the programs, click here.