Promoting Diversity with a Hands-On Approach

After more than 20 years in the fire service, Lani Hill has seen a lot of job candidates come through the door. Like other organizations, the fire service wants to attract a workforce that reflects the communities they serve. Obstacles such as lack of outreach and training opportunities can hinder those efforts.

With a mission “To increase the number of women, people of color and other underrepresented groups working in the fire service in Oregon and Washington,” the Northwest Fire Diversity Council is an Oregon nonprofit that is doing something to address those obstacles.

The group, made up primarily of the fire service and partner educational organizations, are providing outreach, scholarships and mentoring to help attract qualified, trained candidates to these rewarding careers.

“Getting young girls and minorities to realize that opportunities are out there is part of our mission,” says Hill, Fire Marshal at the Port of Portland Fire Department who serves as the Council’s president. “Until you see someone in those shoes doing that job, you may not be able to picture yourself in that role.”

The Council participates career-oriented camps that give girls and young women an opportunity to not only learn about non-traditional careers, but actually apply some of the skills utilized in these careers. The council has partnered with Portland Public Schools and several community colleges, and provides mentoring and job shadow opportunities, resume and interview prep, leadership training and other tangible assistance.

Several NFSA members, including Fire Marshal Hill, are already working with the Council. On behalf of the National Fire Sprinkler Association, I will be representing our industry to find ways to support the great work of this group. Please reach out to me if you have suggestions on how the fire sprinkler industry can help!