A father and daughter duo speak candidly this National Apprenticeship Week
National Apprenticeship Week starts today, 3 February, and to mark the occasion Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service is sharing the story of Jon and Beth Stockley, a father and daughter duo who have opened up about what it’s like for Beth to follow in her father's footsteps as an apprentice firefighter.
It was September of 1990 when Jon Stockley found himself taking up the much sought after and honourable role of a firefighter, kick-starting his career with Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service. Little did he know that exactly 29 years later his daughter, Beth Stockley, would follow in his footsteps…
Speaking about why he applied for the job, Jon said: “I went along to a careers event at school with my friends and spotted these two blokes in uniform and decided to have some fun with them. During our banter, somehow they managed to get us to fill in the application form. We were all invited to attend the first part of the selection process at the same time – so we all decided to go! As the process went on and all my mates gradually got dropped, I decided I really needed to concentrate all my efforts into continuing - and see if I could actually get on a course that so many people were applying for.”
Jon was successfully recruited as an apprentice firefighter with Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service in September 1990. From then he found himself thrust into a much focussed discipline, where you were expected to be ready for any task at a moment’s notice. Failure to do so resulted in punishment for yourself and the rest of the team. They would drill every day and painstakingly study all the manuals with regular tests - both physical and mental.
Reflecting on his time as a firefighter, Jon said: “I have got to see some things that most people wouldn’t experience in their lifetimes. Not all of the job is as people would expect, blood, pain and misery. If I really look back at my time as a firefighter, I have seen some truly amazing sights, situations and rescues that all outweigh the often unpleasant things we have to deal with.”
Now, 29 years later, Jon has been able to proudly witness his daughter follow in his footsteps and embark on her journey as a Firefighter and Community Safety Apprentice with the Service.
Jon was fully supportive of Beth’s decision to sign up: “I was really pleased and excited for Beth to join the Service. The job has changed massively over the past 30 years. If she was starting back in 1992 when I was first on station, I would have 100 per cent tried to discourage her from joining. The culture of not only the service, but the firefighters themselves, has changed tremendously over the decades, and I truly believe now that everyone joining the Service has an equal opportunity - not only with the recruitment process and promotions, but just fitting in with what used to be a very male stereo typical job. I had absolutely no reservations about Beth becoming a firefighter.”
On working with Beth, Jon added: “I find it incredibly humbling when colleagues that I have known over the years come to me and tell me that Beth is an absolute credit to me, and how focused on her work she is. With Beth being based currently at Winsford station, it has been really enjoyable coming to work and seeing her working in the same office.
“There is no limit on how proud I am of Beth. She has set her sights high and as she moves up through the ranks over the next few years, or stays as a firefighter, I have no doubt she will continue to make me feel immensely proud as she faces some of the similar challenges, incidents, events that I have in my time with the Service.”
The fire service has always been a massive part of Beth’s life growing up, because that is all she has ever known her dad do as a job. He was involved in talking to her class in school, and she has watched her dad be involved in some major incidents – some receiving national press coverage - that even if she may not have realised, could well have subconsciously influenced her to follow in her hero’s footsteps.
Speaking about her decision to join the Service, Beth said: “Having grown up with my dad being a firefighter, and wanting to have a career where I would be helping people, while also challenging myself – I decided this was the career for me. I started to attend the on-call drill nights at Winsford to see first-hand what firefighters did and what was involved. I really enjoyed watching and learning about the different drills they did and I was shown how and when these skills would be required on the job. I chose to apply to be a Firefighter and Community Safety Apprentice as it involved working in the community, with the Prevention team, as well as training to become a firefighter.”
Beth who stands little over five feet did have her reservations about joining the Service: “There were a couple of things I was worried about before joining, the main worry was my size - as I am very petite! However having used some of the fire equipment on my course, I found that I just needed to change my technique slightly to enable me to complete the tasks. I also worked on my fitness and strength so that I was ready. Everyone who I have worked with so far has been incredibly supportive and inclusive, and I am really enjoying my time as a Firefighter and Community Safety Apprentice. It is a career that will not only change my life, but also help save the lives of others - something I have always wanted to do.”
Cheshire's exciting 36 month Firefighter and Community Apprenticeship will equip Beth with the skills and knowledge she will need to be a firefighter within a modern fire and rescue service. She will spend time learning about the work of the Service’s various departments, including Prevention and Protection as well as experiencing the operational work carried out by operational firefighters. As part of the apprenticeship Beth will also have the very exciting opportunity to take a trip to Nepal, in South Asia, where she will collectively raise money for Classroom in the Clouds, a charity that constructs schools to support education in rural areas. As part of the trip Beth will hike through the Himalayas in the autumn of 2021, to work on a project to provide classrooms for village children who previously had little or no chance of an education.
Interested to know more about Cheshire’s apprenticeship? Visit our website for more information: Apprenticeships