West Alabama ambulance service’s unusual strategy to recruit future EMTs is working

EMT shortage solutions
Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 4:32 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 25, 2022 at 6:46 PM CDT
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WBRC) - In early August, NorthStar Ambulance in Tuscaloosa started doing something ‘untraditional’ to recruit future EMTs. The strategy seems to be paying off so far.

It was back in early August when Northport officials said they need at least 15 prospective EMTs. It appears they’re getting just what they needed.

Like so many businesses around the country, NorthStar Ambulance felt the sting of COVID. EMTs and paramedics quit and COVID was the blame. So the company did something different. NorthStar started its own ‘Earn While You Learn’ program. The goal? Attract potential recruits. It worked, according to Brent Dierking.

“We had tremendous success with the jobs fair. Our goal was to receive 50 applications for employment considerations,” said NorthStar spokesman Brent Dierking.

NorthStar not only exceeded that goal but it was more than enough to choose from the pool of 15 prospective EMTs. The 15 applicants started this week for the first time.

“The pool of people we were able to look at from the jobs fair gave a really good group to pull from,” Dierking said.

The applicants are already on the payroll, earning more than 12 an hour while they study. The hourly pay will jump to 15 dollars an hour once they complete the course.

NorthStar’s not the only curriculum around. Some colleges and universities offer the same such as Shelton State Community College and the Alabama Fire College.

Assuming the 15 finish the course and pass certification, this will bring NorthStar up to full staff, pre-COVID levels. The course is eight weeks long, seven more to go.

As a general rule NorthStar prefers applicants to be 21 years old but will consider anyone a little younger if they have a clean driving record and a true willingness to learn.

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