BY JAMES TWOMEY
A new training unit for would-be firefighters has received a £1.1million funding boost from the Mayor of London to increase the number of cadets in the capital.
The new fire cadet unit will be set up in Greenwich, adding to the units already established in Lewisham and Bexley.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The London Fire Brigade is doing fantastic work with young people across London through its Fire Cadets programme and I am delighted that this additional funding will mean that they can equip more than 500 young people – from every community and background – with essential life skills, as well as help to develop some of the firefighters of tomorrow.
“Youth services such as the Fire Cadets are vital for Londoners and I will continue to do everything in my power to fund and support the fantastic programmes, schemes and charities that are making a real and lasting difference to our young people.”
Since the cadet programme started in 2013, 750 young people have graduated from the scheme, including 50 who have gone on to work as firefighters, control staff and inspection officers in the London Fire Brigade.
The brigade hopes to create a diverse cadet force for future recruitment, with 55 per cent of current cadets being girls and 49 per cent being BAME.
Johnny McDonald, fire cadet co-ordinator, Lewisham Unit, said: “I was a Volunteer Cadet Instructor with LFB Fire Cadets for four years and served at many units including Lewisham. Fire Cadets is an absolute inspiration, not just for the young people but for the adult volunteers also.
“It inspired me so much that I joined the London Fire Brigade and am now a Fire Cadet Co-ordinator responsible for the running of our Lewisham unit and it really is the best job I could ask for.”
Deputy Fire Cadet Manager, Nikki Rees, said: “The funding forms part of the plan to have a cadet unit in every London borough. This round of funding will see the unit in Greenwich set up within two years. For those that want to volunteer now they can join an existing unit and transfer when the greenwich unit is complete.”
Fire Cadets take on community actions as well as learning how to fight fires, such as collecting clothes and making food packs for the homeless in Lewisham, as well as delivering presents to the children in local hospitals at Christmas.
Toby Hagues,17, a crew manager cadet from the Bromley Unit, said: “Cadets has taught me a lot both educationally and socially. I joined Cadets in 2017 as a shy, naive boy, but have now developed into a more confident individual, who is keen to integrate with new groups of people.
“I learnt many key attributes in Fire Cadets, including teamwork and communication skills”
London Fire Brigade Commissioner, Dany Cotton, said: “The funding will mean many more young people in London will have the opportunity to become a Fire Cadet. Our scheme gives young people the opportunity to gain a BTEC qualification, improves confidence and encourages them to take an active role in their communities.
“Over half of our cadets are young women, showing that London’s youth are challenging stereotypes of the fire service.
“The expansion of our programme will help break down barriers further and hopefully lead to more women becoming interested in the fire service in the future.
“It has been fantastic to see the Mayor listen to our calls and provide a significant funding boost to the Fire Cadets programme and that a unit will be launching in Greenwich.
“The expansion of this scheme will provide our local young people with a positive and invaluable opportunity to develop essential life and employability skills.
“The Fire Cadets programme also plays a vital role in ensuring that the London Fire Brigade is able to attract and nurture the next generation of talent from a wide range of communities and backgrounds.”