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Fire and Other Public Safety

Overview

This page provides information and data on the Fire and Other Public Safety sector, which is one component of the Corrections and Public Safety industry cluster.

The main occupation in this sector that requires vocational education and training (VET) is Fire and Emergency Worker.

Nationally recognised training for Fire and Other Public Safety occupations is delivered under the PUA – Public Safety Training Package.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

Employment numbers in the Public Order, Safety and Regulatory Services sector have increased overall between 2001 and 2021 by over two thirds (69%). Employment levels peaked at around 231,900 in 2021, following a slight decline between 2018 and 2019. Employment in this sector is projected to decline slightly to 225,800 by 2025.

Fire and Emergency Workers make up 6% of the workforce in this industry and employment for this occupation is expected to remain steady to 2025.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Both enrolments and completions for Fire and Other Public Safety-related qualifications decreased in 2020 after recording the highest levels since 2016, the previous year. Enrolments decreased from approximately 13,840 to 10,620 while completions decreased from around 4,480 to 3,830.

The majority (70%) of enrolments were at the certificate II level, with certificate III level enrolments making up most of the remaining portion at 21%. More than half (57%) of the enrolments in this sector were for Fire Services qualifications with the main intended occupation of Fire Fighter, while 37% of enrolments were for Aquatic Search and Rescue qualifications with the main intended occupations of Deck Hand (54%) and Lifeguard (44%).

Almost three quarters (72%) of enrolments overall were at private training providers, with 92% of Aquatic Search and Rescue qualifications occurring at private training providers. State Emergency Services qualifications were split between TAFE (69%) and Enterprise providers (31%).

Overall, the majority (84%) of subjects were funded through domestic fee for service. However, it should be noted that there are some exemptions from reporting for organisations delivering training for vital services that are not delivered on a fee for service basis (as noted in the Public Safety IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast).

Just under half (47%) of students resided in Victoria, followed by Queensland (26%) and New South Wales (13%). Similarly, training was mainly delivered in Victoria (47%), Queensland (28%) and New South Wales (11%).

There are few apprenticeships and traineeships in this area, with commencement and completion numbers varying substantially between 2011 and 2020. As at December 2020, there were more than 80 commencements and close to 30 completions. All apprenticeships and traineeships in this area have the intended occupation of Fire Fighter. The majority of students in training were reported by South Australia (68%), with the ACT (25%) and Tasmania (7%) making up the remainder.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s Data Builder.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

The top priority skills for the Public Safety industry overall, as identified in the Public Safety IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast include health and safety, and community engagement, while the top priority industry and occupation skills were named as search and rescue, emergency response, and fire fighting. In addition, the key generic skills for the Public Safety industry were listed as:

  • Managerial / Leadership
  • Communication / Virtual collaboration / Social intelligence
  • Technology
  • Design mindset / Thinking critically / System thinking / Solving problems
  • Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN).

An article in the Australian Journal of Emergency Management has identified creative thinking as a necessary skill for emergency managers. This article states that creative thinking is supported by divergent thinking, and preliminary research among emergency services organisation, not-for-profit organisations and the critical infrastructure sector identified an increase in creative output when personal are given a set of constraints in which to think divergently.

This industry sector, and particularly fire and emergency services, is heavily reliant on volunteers. A report by the Productivity Commission shows nationally in 2019-20, there were 22 492 full time equivalent paid personnel employed by fire service organisations, and 201 662 volunteer personnel participating in the delivery of services during that time. The Public Safety IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast notes concerns about recruitment and retention of volunteers, with concerns raised by industry stakeholders relating to:

  • Costs of training, or to become a trainer, in both time and money
  • A lack of understanding and recognition of the role of volunteers
  • A lack of motivation among volunteers to complete personal training
  • A shortage of trainers and unmet demand for training
  • A lack of online and other interactive training
  • Access to training – this includes the distance required to travel to complete compliance training.

Additionally, the report A shared risk: volunteer shortages in Australia’s rural bushfire brigades revealed the scale of the 2019-20 bushfire season served to highlight Australia’s heavy reliance on rural volunteer firefighters, and brought into sharp focus the long-term issues that many volunteer bushfire brigades have faced with recruitment and retention. The research revealed the same factors hampering attraction and retention efforts, including increased time and financial demands on volunteers due to increased centralised regulation of volunteer provided services.

On top of the above recruitment and retention issues for volunteers, there are also increasing challenges associated with the ageing workforce in the Public Safety industry. The average age of the workforce is trending upwards, and therefore brings with it challenges relating to health, the volume of retirements and associated loss of organisational and industry specific knowledge, as well as a loss of mentors. In order address these concerns and maintain effective services into the future, the Public Safety IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast has highlighted a need to emphasise leadership and manage development in a much younger group of workers, as well as implementing strategies to retain experienced older workers.

Strategic issues are also being faced by this sector with regards to emergency and natural disaster preparedness. The Public Safety IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast identifies a policy shift for emergency management. The model of emergency services serving the community is shifting towards one that empowers the community to be their own representative in emergency management. In order to facilitate this changing model of emergency response, a series of community engagement activities that focus on the concepts of shared responsibility and community resilience are needed to encourage the active participation of individuals, businesses and communities in government processes, and emergency management and preparedness.

In response to several fire incidents in buildings across Australia, the Public Safety IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast have identified an opportunity for fire safety personnel to work with building practitioners during the design and construction phases of a building to ensure fire safety requirements are being met along with the requirements of the National Construction Code.

In addition, the above Skills Forecast notes that with the increasing use of aviation to manage a broader range of emergencies, that extend beyond firefighting, there is a need for more flexible training pathways as currently the Fire Aviation Training and Assessment Framework (FATAF) is very fire focused.

The Black Summer fires in 2019-20 burned through more than 17 million hectares of land, killed more than a billion animals, and affected nearly 80 percent of Australians, with the loss of over 450 lives from the fires and smoke and more than 3,000 homes and thousands of other buildings destroyed. Recommendations from The Australian Bushfire and Climate Plan: Final Report of the National Bushfire and Climate Summit 2020 included:

  • Establish a national fire and emergency academy to ensure new knowledge and practices are uniformly taught, and to enhance the ability of fire and emergency services to share knowledge and work together as effectively as possible.
  • Recognise that significant effort and resources that could otherwise be put towards training are taken up in ensuring registered training organisation (RTO) compliance. This can be reduced by having a national standard for training developed by the Federal Government, with training then delivered by state and territory agencies.
  • Provide opportunities for staff and volunteers of fire services and land management agencies, as well as private landholders, to develop their understanding of landscape-level fire management, cultural burning, fire ecology and climate change through courses, forums and training materials.

Furthermore, the Public Safety IRC’s 2021 Industry Outlook reveals all states and territories have implemented several significant changes since the release of the 2020 Bushfire Royal Commission recommendations. Interoperability of personnel and resources has improved through with the use of a common incident management system, supporting protocols and procedures, role based competencies and national industry doctrine. All state and territory fire agencies continue to work collaboratively to further develop workforce capabilities to ensure that interoperability is successfully implemented.

Diversity continues to be widely discussed with regards to emergency management organisations, with an article in the Australian Journal of Emergency Management highlighting that escalating natural hazard risks mean transformation is required in how these risks are managed and who is needed to manage them. The transformation of the ‘who’ relates to a need for greater diversity of skills and capabilities amongst the people who apply for these roles, making diversity and inclusion a moral and business imperative. A report by the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council (AFAC) discusses the current lack of gender diversity in fire and emergency services roles, a predominantly male workforce. This has implications for recruitment, with the industry only accessing 50% of the best available talent.

In line with this lack of diversity, the Champions of Change Fire and Emergency Charter has been developed to advance gender equality, inclusive cultures and achieve significant and sustainable improvements in the representation of women in the fire and emergency services workplace. Encouragingly, the Champions of Change Fire and Emergency Progress Report 2019-20 reports that progress is being made against gender equality priorities, including achieving or increasing female representation across 66.4% of employment categories among members, increasing women’s representation across the group from 22.0% in 2018 to 24.9% in 2020, 37.8% of overall hires across the group were women, and flexible working strategies have been mainstreamed by 84.6% of members.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

IRC and skills forecasts

 

Relevant research

A Shared Risk: Volunteer Shortages in Australia's Rural Bushfire Brigades - Australian Geographer, Volume 51, Issue 4, 2020

Australian Bushfire and Climate Plan: Final Report of the National Bushfire and Climate Summit 2020 - Emergency Leaders for Climate Action and the Climate Council of Australia Ltd

Champions of Change Fire and Emergency Group Charter – Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Councils (AFAC)

Champions of Change Fire and Emergency Progress Report 2019-20 – Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council (AFAC)

Effective Diversity in Emergency Management Organisations: The Long Road – Australian Journal of Emergency Management, Volume 34, Number 2, April 2019, pages 38-45

Male Champions of Change Fire and Emergency Impact Report 2018-19 - Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council (AFAC)

New Human Capabilities in Emergency and Crisis Management: From Non-Technical Skills to Creativity – Australasian Journal of Emergency Management, Volume 34, Number 4, October 2019, pages 23-30

Report on Government Services 2021: Chapter 9 Emergency Services for Fire and Other Events – Productivity Commission

The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements Report – Australian Government

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Australian and New Zealand National Council for Fire and Emergency Services

Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience

 

Employers

ACT Parks and Conservation Service

Forestry Corporation of New South Wales

Forestry Tasmania

Forestry SA

HQ Plantations Pty Ltd

New South Wales State Emergency Service

SA State Emergency Services

Tasmania State Emergency Service

Victoria State Emergency Service

 

Employee associations

NSW SES Volunteers Association

United Firefighters Union of Australia (UFUA)

United Firefighters Union of Australia Victoria Branch (UFU VICTORIA)

United Professional Firefighter’s Union of Western Australia (UFU WA)

United Firefighters Union of South Australia (UFU SA)

United Firefighters Union Queensland (UFUQ)

United Firefighters Union of Australia Tasmanian Branch (UFUA TAS)

United Firefighters Union of Australia ACT Branch (UFUA ACT)

United Firefighters Union of Australia – Aviation Branch (UFUAV)

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2021, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 2 digit 77 Public Order, Safety and Regulatory Services, employment projections to May 2025.
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2025
    • Fire and Emergency Workers.

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ08 - Employed persons by Occupation unit group of main job (ANZSCO), Sex, State and Territory, August 1986 onwards, viewed 1 August 2021, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2021

  • Employed total by 2 digit ANZSIC 77 Public Order, Safety and Regulatory Services, 2001 to 2021, May Quarter.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census - Employment, Income and Unpaid Work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by 2 digit ANZSIC 77 Public Order, Safety and Regulatory Services, and 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant VET-related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce.

                                                                                                                                               

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider CollectionTotal VET Students and Courses from the PUA – Public Safety Training Package:

  • Fire Services qualifications
    • PUA20601 - Certificate II in Public Safety (Firefighting and Emergency Operations)
    • PUA20613 - Certificate II in Public Safety (Firefighting and Emergency Operations)
    • PUA20619 - Certificate II in Public Safety (Firefighting and Emergency Operations)
    • PUA20701 - Certificate II in Public Safety (Firefighting Operations)
    • PUA20713 - Certificate II in Public Safety (Firefighting Operations)
    • PUA20719 - Certificate II in Public Safety (Firefighting Operations)
    • PUA30601 - Certificate III in Public Safety (Firefighting and Emergency Operations)
    • PUA30613 - Certificate III in Public Safety (Firefighting and Emergency Operations)
    • PUA30619 - Certificate III in Public Safety (Firefighting and Emergency Operations)  
    • PUA30701 - Certificate III in Public Safety (Firefighting Operations)
    • PUA30713 - Certificate III in Public Safety (Firefighting Operations)
    • PUA30719 - Certificate III in Public Safety (Firefighting Operations)  
    • PUA40301 - Certificate IV in Public Safety (Firefighting Supervision)
    • PUA40313 - Certificate IV in Public Safety (Firefighting Supervision)
    • PUA40319 - Certificate IV in Public Safety (Firefighting Supervision)  
    • PUA50501 - Diploma of Public Safety (Firefighting Management)
    • PUA50513 - Diploma of Public Safety (Firefighting Management)
    • PUA50519 - Diploma of Public Safety (Firefighting Management)  
    • PUA60501 - Advanced Diploma of Public Safety (Firefighting Management)
    • PUA60513 - Advanced Diploma of Public Safety (Firefighting Management)
    • PUA60519 - Advanced Diploma of Public Safety (Firefighting Management)
    • PUA60909 - Advanced Diploma of Public Safety (Fire Investigation)
    • PUA60913 - Advanced Diploma of Public Safety (Fire Investigation).
  • Aquatic Search and Rescue qualifications
    • PUA20119 - Certificate II in Public Safety (Aquatic Rescue)
    • PUA21004 - Certificate II in Public Safety (Aquatic Rescue)
    • PUA21010 - Certificate II in Public Safety (Aquatic Rescue)
    • PUA21012 - Certificate II in Public Safety (Aquatic Rescue)
    • PUA30319 - Certificate III in Public Safety (Aquatic Search and Rescue)
    • PUA31310 - Certificate III in Public Safety (Aquatic Search and Rescue)
    • PUA31312 - Certificate III in Public Safety (Aquatic Search and Rescue)
    • PUA42612 - Certificate IV in Public Safety (Aquatic Search and Rescue Management)
    • PUA50912 - Diploma of Public Safety (Search and Rescue - Coordination).
  • State Emergency Services qualifications
    • PUA20219 - Certificate II in Public Safety (SES)
    • PUA20400 - Certificate II in Public Safety (SES Rescue)
    • PUA20410 - Certificate II in Public Safety (SES Rescue)
    • PUA20500 - Certificate II in Public Safety (SES Operations)
    • PUA20510 - Certificate II in Public Safety (SES Operations)
    • PUA21309 - Certificate II in Public Safety (SES)
    • PUA21310 - Certificate II in Public Safety (SES)
    • PUA21312 - Certificate II in Public Safety (SES)
    • PUA30400 - Certificate III in Public Safety (SES Rescue)
    • PUA30410 - Certificate III in Public Safety (SES Rescue)
    • PUA30412 - Certificate III in Public Safety (SES Rescue)
    • PUA30419 - Certificate III in Public Safety (SES Rescue)
    • PUA30420 - Certificate III in Public Safety (SES Rescue)
    • PUA30500 - Certificate III in Public Safety (SES Operations)
    • PUA30510 - Certificate III in Public Safety (SES Operations)
    • PUA30512 - Certificate III in Public Safety (SES Operations)
    • PUA40212 - Certificate IV in Public Safety (SES Leadership)
    • PUA40219 - Certificate IV in Public Safety (SES Leadership).
  • Biosecurity Response qualifications
    • PUA30919 - Certificate III in Public Safety (Biosecurity Emergency Response Operations)
    • PUA33112 - Certificate III in Public Safety (Biosecurity Response Operations)
    • PUA40419 - Certificate IV in Public Safety (Biosecurity Emergency Response Leadership)
    • PUA42912 - Certificate IV in Public Safety (Biosecurity Response Leadership)
    • PUA50219 - Diploma of Public Safety (Biosecurity Emergency Response Management)
    • PUA52412 - Diploma of Public Safety (Biosecurity Response Management).
  • General Public Safety
    • PUA31404 - Certificate III in Public Safety (Community Safety)
    • PUA31412 - Certificate III in Public Safety (Community Safety)
    • PUA33010 - Certificate III in Public Safety (Emergency Communications Centre Operations)
    • PUA33012 - Certificate III in Public Safety (Emergency Communications Centre Operations)
    • PUA41004 - Certificate IV in Public Safety (Leadership)
    • PUA41012 - Certificate IV in Public Safety (Leadership)
    • PUA41019 - Certificate IV in Public Safety (Leadership)
    • PUA41104 - Certificate IV in Public Safety (Community Safety)
    • PUA41112 - Certificate IV in Public Safety (Community Safety)
    • PUA41120 - Certificate IV in Public Safety (Community Safety)
    • PUA42712 - Certificate IV in Public Safety (Emergency Communications Centre Operations)
    • PUA50119 - Diploma of Public Safety (Emergency Management)
    • PUA50120 - Diploma of Public Safety (Emergency Management)
    • PUA51004 - Diploma of Public Safety (Community Safety)
    • PUA51012 - Diploma of Public Safety (Community Safety)
    • PUA52312 - Diploma of Public Safety (Emergency Management)
    • PUA60112 - Advanced Diploma of Public Safety (Emergency Management)
    • PUA60119 - Advanced Diploma of Public Safety (Emergency Management)
    • PUA60120 - Advanced Diploma of Public Safety (Emergency Management)
    • PUA60704 - Advanced Diploma of Public Safety (Community Safety)
    • PUA60712 - Advanced Diploma of Public Safety (Community Safety)
    • PUA60719 - Advanced Diploma of Public Safety (Community Safety).

 

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2016 to 2020 program enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 subject enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 program completions.

 

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skillsets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.  

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

PUA Public Safety Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2011 to 2020 commencements
  • 2011 to 2020 completions
  • apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2020 collection, by qualification and State and Territory of data submitter.
Updated: 20 Jan 2022
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