(WAUSAU, Wis.) – Northcentral Technical College (NTC) was one of four recent recipients of a $25,000 Youth Firefighter Training grant from the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS).

“We recognize the growing demand for qualified volunteer firefighters within our community,” said Dr. Jeannie Worden, NTC President. “In order to address this urgent need, it is crucial to attract people into the emergency services when they are young so that they can form a lifelong connection, whether as a first responder or as a community supporter.”

The grant will help fund a new program, NTC’s Youth Firefighter Academy, which will train high school students to be Firefighter Level 1 volunteers/employees and prepare them for the Emergency Medical Responder certification exam. Grant partners include the volunteer Central Fire and EMS District and Colby and Abbotsford high schools.

“It’s all about public safety,” said Dan Hereth, DSPS Secretary. “Our Wisconsin fire departments do more than fight fires. They are on the frontlines of all aspects of community safety.”

Recruitment and retention have become key issues for many Wisconsin fire departments, particularly the all-volunteer station. The Youth Firefighter Grant Program is designed to help address these concerns by exposing high school students to career and volunteer opportunities in the fire service at a time when they are making decisions about their future careers and endeavors.

Steve Wozniak, principal at Colby High School, also serves as a volunteer firefighter at Central Fire and EMS. He went through his firefighter training at NTC and was instrumental in getting the ball rolling on this collaboration.

“At 36, I’m one of the younger members of the department and that’s kind of scary,” said Wozniak. ”We need to do what we can to fill that gap and recruit younger firefighters.”

Next year, NTC will train up to six high school students to be Firefighter Level 1 volunteers or employees.

“By working together, we are building pathways ensuring a viable, and sustainable, public safety workforce for central Wisconsin,” Dr. Worden said.