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Firefighter Pre-Apprenticeship Program Passes Committee Vote
Heath Flora
Local Assemblyman Heath Flora is shown testifying about his Firefighter Pre-Apprenticeship Program bill, Assembly Bill 579, which recently passed unanimously out of the Governmental Organization Committee. Photo Contributed

Assemblyman Heath Flora recently announced his Firefighter Pre-Apprenticeship Program bill, Assembly Bill 579, was passed unanimously out of Governmental Organization Committee. The bill’s next stop is Labor and Employment Committee before heading to Appropriations and then finally a full vote on the Assembly floor.

AB 579 would require the Division of Apprenticeship Standards, in conjunction with the California Firefighter Joint Apprenticeship Committee (Cal-JAC), to develop a statewide firefighter pre-apprenticeship program to aid local fire agencies in recruiting candidates from underrepresented demographic groups.

In 2016, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that women make up only 3.5 percent of firefighters nationally. The profession also reflects low numbers among racial minority groups with only 6.8 percent of the firefighting workforce made up of African Americans, 1.4 percent Asian and 7.7 percent Hispanic or Latino. According to the Employment Development Department Labor Market Information, between the years of 2014 and 2024 the fire service is projected to add 2,400 new positions and will need to replace an astounding 9,600 for a total 12,000 new jobs.

“As career firefighter, I know the fire service is a respected and admired career.” said Assemblyman Flora. “My bill, AB 579, would provide Californians access to great paying jobs and aids our departments by filling the gap with a workforce that reflects our communities. It will establish a program to prepare underrepresented groups with the skills and education they need to be eligible for consideration in the firefighting field. I am proud to have received unanimous and bipartisan support in our first vote for my legislation.”

AB 579 will establish a program to prepare and equip underrepresented groups with the skills, competencies and mentorship needed to pass the physical, written and oral components necessary to be eligible for consideration in the firefighting field. The pre-apprenticeship program delivery model will rely on existing delivery methods offered by the Cal-JAC, which engages local fire departments, regional fire agencies and educational institutions. In doing so, this bill ensures that the program is standardized and consistent statewide. Further, AB 579 will help close the skills gap and provide real opportunities for all Californians.

Assemblyman Heath Flora represents the 12th Assembly District, which includes the communities of Denair, Empire, Escalon, Farmington, Hickman, Hughson, Keyes, Lathrop, Linden, Lockeford, Manteca, Modesto, Oakdale, Ripon, Riverbank, Salida, Turlock, Victor, and Waterford.