Feeling the heat
Civil-service appointments are highly valued for their job security, so it is no surprise that competition for the position of firemen (workshops) jobs at the Fire Services Department is particularly heated, with applications far outnumbering the available jobs.
The department is now recruiting to fill the more than 10 existing and anticipated vacancies for the fireman (workshop) grade, which is currently made up of 89 staff.
While basic requirements include only the need for secondary-school education, university graduates are also known to apply. Other requirements include a completed apprenticeship in automobile, mechanical, electrical or electronic engineering, and four years’ work experience in a relevant field. Language-proficiency requirements include Cantonese, English and Putonghua.
“It will be advantageous for applicants to possess an automobile engineering certificate from a Hong Kong polytechnic or polytechnic university, the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education, a technical college or institute, or equivalent,” says Ko Chi-chung, senior electrical and mechanical engineer at the Fire Services Department. “Possessing a valid Hong Kong driving licence is also an advantage.”
Shortlisted candidates will be invited to a panel interview and, if they pass that, they have to take a trade test. A written test on the Basic Law is also arranged for the day of the interview.
“Applicants will be assessed on their character, ability, potential and performance, as well as qualifications and experience prescribed for the rank under recruitment. The interview will assess future job performance of candidates by examining whether they have the abilities, skills, qualifications and experience to meet the requirements of the job, and ascertain whether the orientation and aptitude of the candidate fit the government’s and department’s culture and values,” Ko says.
Firemen (workshops) are required to conduct daily routine and breakdown maintenance of fire-fighting appliances and rescue equipment in the department’s four workshops. This includes testing, inspecting and repairing vehicle mechanical systems such as engines, gearboxes, hydraulics, electrical and electronic systems, and air conditioning systems.
The job is undertaken in shifts and may need to be carried out on-site in dangerous and difficult circumstances, such as fires or civil disturbances.
“They sometimes have to face dangerous situations while rendering supporting to frontline members in emergencies, such as repairing defective lighting and pumping equipment in confined or poorly ventilated environments filled with smoke and intense heat,” Ko says.
“They are also required to attend operational incidents at any time of the day or night, seven days a week, under all weather conditions, even when the number 10 typhoon signal, black rainstorm warning signal or landslide warning signal is hoisted,” he adds.
Being a fireman of any type requires great commitment to the vision of the Fire Services Department: “To serve Hong Kong by making it a safe place to live and work.” To achieve that, incumbents have to “protect life and property from fire or other calamity”.
New recruits have to undergo an initial three-week training session at the Fire Services Training School in Tseung Kwan O, where they learn about the Fire Services Department, the capabilities and purposes of Fire Services appliances and equipment, the correct terminology, and conduct and discipline. This is followed by on-the-job training in the maintenance of fire appliances and firefighting equipment. Vehicle-maintenance courses are provided as they are needed.
General courses are organised by the Civil Service Training and Development Institute, which can help individuals climb the workshops career ladder from fireman to senior fireman to principal fireman.
Salary is offered on the general disciplined services (rank and file) pay scale point 2 to 14, which is between HK$15,660 and HK$22,975 (provided for reference only), plus fringe benefits. New recruits will have to pass an examination after their initial training and, if successful, will be appointed on a three-year probationary term. After successful conclusion of the probation term, they will be appointed on permanent terms.