Future firefighters and fitness professionals teaming up at Durham College for hands-on learning experience

Students in Durham College (DC)’s Firefighter – Pre-Service Education and Training (PFET) and Fitness and Health Promotion (FHP) programs are participating in a unique, collaborative learning opportunity created in response to Canada’s fitness and first responder needs.

In this interdisciplinary opportunity, firefighting students will perform real-life fire simulations while fitness and health promotion students simultaneously measure their vital physiological responses to improve health, safety and performance. This project has been funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Innovation Work-Integrated Learning program and Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning (CEWIL) Canada’s Innovation Hub.

“There is an emerging need for fitness and health promotion professionals with technical training specific to the assessment of first responders,” said Dr. Michael Williams-Bell, professor, Faculty of Health Sciences and lead on the initiative. “Many fire departments within Ontario and Canada require incoming recruits to have a basic level of knowledge and skills, so training conducted through projects like this is crucial as we continue to lead the way for the next generation of firefighters.”

The project, in collaboration with Oshawa Fire Services and Ontario Tech University, has three phases:

  • Phase one: V02 Max Clinics led by FHP students who measure PFET students’ maximum oxygen consumption and analyze overall cardiovascular endurance.
  • Phase two: PFET extreme environment workshop that includes exercises like search and rescue in high heat and CPR in a simulated moving ambulance.
  • Phase three: Live fire training at the OFS burn tower facility where FHP students monitor the firefighters’ physiology and provide post-evolution analysis.

With the funding, FHP students will also expand the varsity athlete training clinics and work with coaches and sport science research experts to gain hands-on experience using new data analysis techniques.

“This unique collaboration will support the learning outcomes of the FHP and PFET programs and provide our students with first-hand industry experience that will increase their employability,” said Debbie McKee Demczyk, dean, Office of Research Services, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “We’re incredibly grateful for CEWIL Canada’s commitment to elevating the student experience at Durham College.”

Totalling $195,000, this marks the largest non-bursary award DC’s Office of Research Services, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ORSIE) has received from CEWIL Canada to date.