City of Albemarle Firefighter Academy Earns Cross-Community Collaboration Award

Centralina’s mission promotes the power of regional collaboration to help expand opportunity and improve quality of life for those in our region. The Region of Excellence Award for Cross-Community Collaboration honors government, nonprofit and or private entities that work together to leverage their resources and skills to combat a widespread problem in their community. This past year, the City of Albemarle was honored for their efforts to establish the City of Albemarle Firefighter Cadet Academy. This endeavor, created in partnership with Stanly Community College (SCC) and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College (RCCC), effectively demonstrates the value of aligning forces to achieve better outcomes for those in the community.  

The project began development in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to negatively affect both private sector and public agency employers seeking to quickly fill essential roles in a tight labor market. Local fire departments were severely understaffed, and that lack of personnel increased the risk of danger to lives and property in the area. The City of Albemarle sought a solution that would help these departments overcome current staffing challenges and utilize best practices to avoid experiencing more future hiring difficulties.  

In response to these rising issues, the City joined forces with SCC and RCCC to create a firefighter cadet academy that would provide life-saving training to local job seekers searching for a fulfilling and rewarding career. All three stakeholders leveraged their skills, expertise and resources to create an 18-week course featuring classroom and hands-on field instruction led by members of the City of Albemarle Fire Department and skill specialist instructors. Once completed, cadets earn their North Carolina State Firefighters Certification and are sworn into the fire service.  

As the first graduating class was underway, the City became aware of other neighboring fire departments in the area who were struggling with hiring and needed training assistance. The academy opened its doors to aspiring firefighters from surrounding communities who joined departments in Endy, Ridgecrest and Baldin Lake upon graduation. They continue to welcome members from other communities who are interested in gaining valuable training without having to travel far from home. The academy also benefits the City’s planning and development departments in Albemarle by conducting controlled burns in structures when requested for code enforcement compliance.  

The cadet academy’s continued operation provides ongoing benefits to the community by training individuals who are deeply invested in keeping their community safe, which in turn, creates better continuity of service. Experienced members of the department are equally empowered through sharing their knowledge in class instruction, allowing them to gain experience in an influential leadership role. “The City of Albemarle’s Firefighter Cadet Academy has allowed us to enhance the training and skill of the newest members of our department.” Fire Chief Pierre Brewton remarks. “With instruction coming from the dedicated and experienced members of our department, we are able to create a close team bond for our recruits even before their first day on the job with us. Better teams mean better service for our community.”