The Philadelphia Fire Department (PFD) has partnered with workforce development agencies to teach local residents lifesaving skills and introduce them to the possibility of a career in emergency medical services (EMS).

The first cohort from the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative began training last fall to become emergency medical technicians (EMTs) through a course taught by PFD instructors.

“We are excited to show people how important and rewarding this job can be,” said Crystal Yates, the PFD’s assistant deputy commissioner for EMS. “Teaming up with the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative gave us a great way to connect with the talent in the community.”

The five-month, full-time course is free for participants thanks to funding from Philadelphia Works Inc. Those who pass the national EMT certification test will be able to apply for jobs at hospitals, with private ambulance companies, or in the PFD.

“With over 600 applications for the 20-seat program, it is clear that many Philadelphians are interested in this career path and pipeline,” said Joshua Park, senior manager for employer services at WPSI. “We’re excited about the success of the first class and look forward to further strengthening this partnership.”

To become EMTs, participants must learn skills such as CPR, bleeding control, and using an automated external defibrillator. Certified EMTs can also choose to further their education and become paramedics.

Dishon Solomon, 25, was glad to be among those chosen. He had been working as a security guard but felt he “was at a standstill in my life.” Now, he said the EMT course is an “awesome program” that has given him a new professional direction – and he encouraged others to apply.

“These opportunities don’t come around a lot, so take advantage of it,” Solomon said. “Be dedicated, be focused, be open-minded, be eager, don’t be afraid to ask questions – the instructors are always here for you when you need them.”

The PFD – which responded to an average of 752 EMS incidents per day in fiscal year 2019 – is looking to expand the EMT training program to other workforce development agencies.