Building a career: Work experience program enters tenth year

Harrison has gone from taking part in the WEP program to selecting this year’s students. | Photo supplied

When Luke Harrison made trips from his home in Smithers, B.C. to Sun Peaks for ski races as a child, he never imagined he would one day live in the resort. He grew up and attended the Justice Institute of B.C., completing all of the required certifications and training to become a firefighter.

After moving to Sun Peaks for ski patrol his interest in emergency response grew and he decided to apply at Kamloops Fire Rescue and for the Work Experience Program (WEP) at Sun Peaks Fire Rescue (SPFR) in 2011.

The program, available at only a handful of departments, accepts just four of around 40 applicants for six months of work, training, volunteering and community service.
During his interviews and tests years ago in Kamloops, Harrison said he met applicants who had come from the Sun Peaks program.

“I could already tell they were above anyone else there,” Harrison said.
He earned a coveted Sun Peaks spot where from May to October he attended countless training days, volunteered at concerts, tested smoke alarms, cleaned and organized equipment and experienced life as a firefighter.

“Before I got into firefighting I prepared to handle unexpected challenges,” Harrison said. “But balancing work, life and the department taught me time management and discipline. It’s not easy.”

Now he is one of many work experience program (WEP) participants who found work in firefighting. Harrison is the training officer at SPFR, one of only a few paid positions, and is now sorting through applications for the WEP in 2017, now entering its tenth year.

He said the program is important to bring more manpower to SPFR in the summer months and it gives students an opportunity to learn and gain experience. With so many applications for a limited number of spaces, Harrison said he looks at an applicant’s training beyond the minimum requirements and places a high value on volunteering and
community service.

Harrison at a training exercise. Photo supplied.

In addition to the WEP, seven new volunteers recruited in November will be certified to respond to calls by the end of March. Harrison Connell, Tyler Flieger, Brodie Lamb, Chris Mark, Shaun Pettit, Jamie Veillette, and Abby Wilson are all completing the Exterior Firefighter Operations program, the new minimum standard for all SPFR members.

It was the first recruiting drive in the five years Harrison has been at the station but he said he expects another next spring to bring more strong members to the SPFR team.

“They’re a really committed and enthusiastic bunch,” he said. “As a first batch I couldn’t think of a better group.”