Indiana will face severe shortages of first responders if career development is not addressed, research shows
High schoolers interested in public safety careers will be offered free, weeklong leadership academies at the Indiana Sheriffs’ Youth Ranch beginning with a pilot program this summer.
Fire and EMS, sheriff and police leadership youth academies will be offered at ISYR’s nonprofit 62-acre training retreat in Clay County under an agreement jointly announced today by leaders of ISYR and Crossroads of America Council, BSA-Exploring.
Law Enforcement, Fire Recruitment Challenges
“Indiana figures show nearly 14,000 law enforcement recruits will be needed from among our state’s current K-12 student population,” said Vigo County Sheriff John Plasse, ISYR board president. “Figures for the fire service are being calculated, but all indications are a similarly staggering need for motivated, qualified applicants – among urban, suburban, rural and volunteer departments.”
Plasse said ISYR is working with sheriffs, police and fire chiefs to develop and host “fascinating, hands-on career camps to maintain teens’ interest in public service during high schoolers’ crucial decision-making years about education, friends, work and habits.”
Student Interests, Hometown Needs
ISYR is partnering statewide with Learning For Life, a national not-for-profit workforce development and career exploration program delivered by BSA’s Exploring Program.
“Our mission for Exploring is to deliver character-building experiences and mentorships that allow youth to achieve their full potential in both life and work,” said Joseph E. Wiltrout, president and CEO of Crossroads of America Council, BSA.
Wiltrout said public safety officials and youth advocates hope Indiana’s proposed leadership academies will promote even safer, smarter communities statewide.
“Advisory groups and instructors are being sought from various departments and state agencies, so Indiana’s proposed Sheriff & Police Explorer Academy and Fire & EMS Explorer Academy effectively address both the interests of students and the needs of Hoosier hometowns,” Wiltrout said.
Serious Training, Fun Recreation
Law Enforcement Explorers will receive distinctly different training from Fire and EMS Explorers,” said Elizabeth Hernandez, Exploring Executive with Crossroads of America Council, BSA. “However, Wednesdays will be designed as turnabout day when students will learn the roles and responsibilities of other careers in public safety.”
Hernandez said Law Enforcement Explorers will learn about cybercrimes, drone use, horse patrols, investigations, K-9 handling and traffic stops. Fire and EMS Explorers will focus on arson investigations, CPR and first aid, ambulance and apparatus procedures, Hernandez said.
“ISYR’s nonprofit training facilities are being developed specifically for these statewide academies,” said Utica Township Fire Chief and former Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel. “Our indoor and outdoor classrooms will lend themselves to both training and recreation during the Explorer Academies.”
Noel, who serves as the Youth Ranch vice president and chairs both Explorer Academy projects, said ISYR’s property offers both open and wooded acreage, as well as three lakes. “Some topics can be casually but effectively discussed among trainers and teens while fishing, cooking out, hiking or riding horseback.”
Free Application, Participation
Cass County Sheriff Ed Schroder, board secretary for ISYR, said a pilot program planned for July of 2023 will include students from Clay, Greene, Owen, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, Vermillion and Vigo counties.
Teens from these counties who have successfully completed grade 8 will be eligible to register and participate free-of-charge, Schroder said. “Other basic requirements will include excellent physical and mental health, good academic and disciplinary standing, a genuine desire to learn about public safety and a recommendation by a local school administrator, sheriff, police or fire chief.”
Printed applications will be available in April through high school guidance offices in the pilot counties, Schroder said. Other participating counties will be included in 2024, as facilities continue to be funded and built at ISYR.
Private Donations, Possible State Support
“Our Sheriffs’ Youth Ranch and Crossroads of America Council, BSA both rely on private donations for our impactful operations helping kids,” said Southern Indiana auto dealer and ISYR treasurer John Jones. “Because of the career development and public safety potential of our new academies, leaders in Indiana government have taken an appropriate interest in helping. Legislators understand the most common question we get when seeking private donations is, ‘Why aren’t my tax dollars doing this?’ Now, with the state coffers in uniquely well-funded shape, many Indiana lawmakers think help is not only possible, but prudent.”
Jones said to request more information, to volunteer or donate, write to Indiana’s Sheriff & Police Explorer Academy or Indiana’s Fire & EMS Explorer Academy, 5325 N. State Road 59, Brazil IN 47834 or go to www.CrossroadsBSA.org.