Anniston Regional Training Center expanding

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Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 5:34 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The first responder shortage is an issue for several communities across the state, but now the city of Anniston is working to fix the problem. They’re investing more than $1 million dollars to expand the Anniston Regional Training Center. This expansion project will not only add more classrooms and training courses, but it will also help with recruitment and retention.

It will double the number of courses currently being offered from 30 to 60, and add more opportunities for high school students to get a jumpstart on their careers.

Currently, high school seniors in East Alabama are taking EMT courses at the center through dual enrollment with scholarships offered from Gadsden State.

Students like Hunter Bridges and Coalie Easterwood see these classes as an opportunity to learn, get certified and decide if a job as a first responder is right for them.

“There is an EMT shortage,” says Bridges. “It’s a career that people are having to struggle to get people to work in. EMTs are somebody we definitely need any and everywhere.”

Easterwood says having this certification is her way of helping people and having a backup career plan.

“You have something to fall back on,” says Easterwood. “My dad always told me, ‘you could go to school to become a history teacher, but you always have something to fall back on. You always have that career option out there.’”

The in-house training the center provides will also assist with recruitment for departments across the state. Assistant Chief Phelps with the Anniston Fire Department says they’ve worked with high schools throughout East Alabama for the last seven years, and they’ve hired more than a dozen students from these programs.

“Anniston Fire Department has gotten 19 employees straight out of that program, and we just hired three more that start in the next couple of weeks,” says Phelps. “I think some of the surrounding departments have been fed by that program as well. I know Gadsden has gotten several from our program.”

The training center also provides professional development courses needed for first responders to move up within these departments.

“Normally we would have to go to Tuscaloosa, so normally going is a couple of thousand dollars that the department has to spend to send them down there,” said Phelps. “So not only does it save the department funds, it also always me to put a lot more students in a class. This has been fantastic, not just for Anniston, but for Jacksonville, our volunteer departments. All these departments are involved in what we’re doing.”

The expansion project is expected to be completed by November.

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