TROY — From a “wild thought” to fruition, the Troy Fire Department introduced its first two “Hometown Heroes” apprentice students during a recognition ceremony at Fire Station No. 2 on Monday.
Chief Matthew Simmons introduced William Vernon and Joseph Schmelzer to a crowd of supporters. Simmons said the idea for the program began two years ago. Simmons worked with the city of Troy, Edison State Community College and state officials to bring the program, which will launch next week, to fruition.
The students will work 20-24 hours a week with a flexible schedule built around their course work.
Vernon, a veteran of the U.S. Army with an honorable discharge, is a Lehman Catholic graduate and resident of Piqua. Vernon specialized in HAZMAT services in the Army. He’ll also be training using the G.I. Bill, Simmons said.
Schmelzer is a 2018 graduate of Covington High School. He was a co-captain on at his school’s football team and active in his community in 4-H and FFA programs while in school.
Simmons said 14 Miami County residents applied for the three-year apprenticeship opportunity. Applicants were interviewed for the program. They will be firefighter certified with their paramedic classification at the end of the program.
The pair will start their hands-on experience next week observing staff and assisting in general tasks such as inspections, cleaning and other routine department duties.
“They’ll be here at the fire station getting acclimated. It’s foreign to both of them. They will help inspect vehicles, cleaning and really just helping out,” Simmons said.
In August, they’ll attend state fire school in Reynoldsburg through November. After completing fire school, they’ll begin EMS classes with the partnership with Edison State Community College in the winter. The state of Ohio’s Apprenticeship program has recognized the Troy program and apprentices are eligible for state funding and scholarships through the state.
“This program, from our standpoint, is make them successful in their schooling. They aren’t replacing firefighters,” Simmons said.
Simmons shared how he worked construction and went to EMT school at night following his military service. Simmons said one of the biggest challenges he faced was not being able to apply the school work to real life situations until he began to do ride-alongs with Troy Fire personnel as a student.
Simmons shared how the pool of candidates to test for Troy Fire positions has dwindled from its hey day of 50-60 candidates per test down to five and even one candidate per open position per civil service test. Apprentices also earn additional points on the civil service exam for their participation in the program.
Simmons said he hopes the program is a success to where he can have three sets of apprentices on staff as they move through the programs.
State representative Jena Powell (R-80), vice-chair on the state’s Workforce and Economic Committee, was also in attendance.
Mayor Michael Beamish said it was the partnerships with the Robinsons, Edison State Community College and state officials that helped launch the apprentice program in Troy.
“Partnerships are what makes Troy so special,” Beamish said.
The city of Troy and the fire department recognized the following organizations who helped to make the “Hometown Heroes” apprentice program possible: Edison State Community College, Robinson Fund, Apprentice Ohio and Thrivent Financial. The Troy Foundation also has a 501 (c) 3 scholarship fund called “Hometown Heroes Fund.”
Reach Melanie Yingst at firstname.lastname@example.org
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