President's report - August, 2021

Posted on : Friday, 27 August 2021

Dear members, 

Our industry is ageing, and there is an urgent need to replace current practitioners as they begin to retire. 


At Fire Australia 21, I spoke about these demographic changes facing our industry.  Competition for new entrants, and a diminishing existing workforce, is set to have a more significant impact on our industry than most others. 


The average age of the most knowledgeable practitioners within our industry is over 55.  They represent the technical expertise of the sector, an irreplaceable repository of wisdom about fire protection and the bedrock upon which innovation can be built. 


Many of these stalwarts of the industry are starting to make lifestyle decisions about their futures, creating a conundrum for our sector - how can businesses keep these older employees engaged, so that the knowledge they have accumulated can be passed on? 


As older practitioners start to make lifestyle decisions about how many hours they want or need to work, workplaces will need to become more flexible. 


This is a problem for our industry, because for much of our history practitioners have traditionally been trained on the job. 


For example, across all of our design disciplines - hydraulic, detection, passive, and smoke control - there is almost a complete reliance on knowledge transfer by osmosis.  


New designers come to our industry with a variety of life skills and education, but are then mentored by existing practitioners in a design office while they study for the Diploma of Fire System Design. 


A similar arrangement exists for those who install and maintain fire systems, where experienced tradespeople mentor the new recruits and show them how the job is done. 


The current rate of retirement is depleting this resource, and as an industry we cannot afford to have decades of irreplaceable knowledge disappear. 


FPA Australia is seeking to capture this experience before it is no longer available, by transforming our approach to training and education. 


Our new National Training Manager David Williams has undertaken a comprehensive overhaul of our training philosophy and delivery, looking at how the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of the industry can be passed on. 


Budget surpluses over the last two years have delivered more financial resources that can be applied to making our training world class. 


However, the best on line learning system and training material is of limited value without skilled mentors and trainers.  


We need people with experience in system design or system testing who are willing to teach the next generation of fire practitioners. 


Candidates do not need to be qualified trainers - to achieve its vision, FPA Australia is willing to pay the full cost of the Certificate IV in training and assessment for anyone who has the skills and knowledge we need. 


We are also willing to offer very attractive hourly rates as either a contractor or casual employee to those who wish to become trainers. 


If this sounds like you, and you would like to contribute to the development of the fire protection industry, please email for more information. 


Stay safe!   


William (Bill) Lea, AFSM