Our on-call firefighters make history

Twelve members of the Service stood in front of a fire appliance on a grey cloudy day. The six in the middle are the on-call apprentices, in their black uniform. Other firefighters are stood to the left and right, as well as two female support staff.

This week (12 April), six on-call firefighters from our Service made history when they completed the End Point Assessment of the operational firefighter apprenticeship. This is a national first – it is usually only wholetime firefighters who take this apprenticeship.

We're proud to be breaking boundaries in offering the same training and development opportunities for both on-call and wholetime firefighters.

The first six firefighters to complete the assessments are:

  • Owen Cheffey, based at Bridgwater Fire Station
  • Lilli Ibbotson, based at Bridgwater Fire Station
  • Laura Hutchings from Newton Abbot Fire Station
  • James Lavis from Newton Abbot Fire Station
  • Thomas Mole from Middlemoor Fire Station (Exeter)
  • Dan McBride from Torquay Fire Station.

“This is a historic and proud moment for us as a Service. I know how hard our on-call staff work, but for these six apprentices to put so much time into their professional qualification shows just how dedicated they are to protecting their communities.

“Our academy staff worked hard to influence the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to accept adaptations to the apprenticeship to enable our on-call firefighters to complete the apprenticeship. In my role as national on-call lead, this is the sort of innovation I love to see and I am sure other Fire and Rescue Services will be learning from our success.

“Once we review this pilot if it’s as successful as we want it to be, we will look to roll out further across all on-call staff.”

Joe Hassell, Deputy Chief Fire Officer and national on-call lead for the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC)

This level of apprenticeship requires 1,560 hours of paid firefighter work and is typically completed over an 18-24 month period. Previously, on-call firefighters could not undertake the apprenticeship because they may not be able to complete the necessary hours working as a firefighter – it was dependent on how busy their fire station is and how many incidents they are called to attend.

Working with The Education Skills Funding Agency, and the National Fire Chiefs Council, we were able to influence a change in policy, and the Department for Education approved the use of apprenticeships for training on-call firefighters.

Mark Palmer, our Quality and Accreditation Manager, has been instrumental in piloting the first group of on-call apprentices.


“This is a really exciting time not only for these six apprentices, but the on-call service nationally. I’m delighted that our on-call firefighters have had the opportunity to access the operational firefighter apprenticeship and achieve this national standard.”

Mark Palmer, Quality and Accreditation Manager

The End Point Assessment took place at Bridgwater & Taunton College and was delivered by SFJ Awards independent assessors. The assessment consisted of three parts: a knowledge test, a practical observation, and a professional discussion. 

We have been working in partnership with Bridgwater & Taunton College since 2018. The college supports us in implementing the training plan and preparation of the apprentices to the point of assessment.  The college may also deliver functional skills in English and maths.

Amanda Charlton, Curriculum Manager for Protective Services work-based learning at Bridgwater & Taunton College, has applauded the commitment shown. Our firefighters have been balancing many duties at once whilst remaining dedicated. Amanda wished them success for their assessments and future.

“I will take every learning experience with me in my career and constantly develop myself to become a better firefighter. I believe that the apprenticeship has given me a very good base to build myself from and definitely set the standards high.”

Owen Cheffey, apprentice

“The apprenticeship has enabled me to develop my operational skills to a great standard and build my confidence. I am sure it will support me with my career moving forward.”

Laura Hutchings, apprentice