Just a week after its grand opening celebration, the Polk State Center for Public Safety hosted three dozen Polk County Fire Rescue employees for the opening session of a new leadership training program specifically designed for first responders.
“We believe that this is the future of public safety leadership in Polk County,” said Nyrka Riskin, program coordinator of the Polk State Corporate College’s Professional Development Institute.
“The purpose of this program is to develop leaders in the public-safety field. The students will have the opportunity to share creative ideas, go on tours, give presentations, learn from Chiefs’ Panels, and increase their career development opportunities by learning from top talent in the public safety and leadership fields.”
Reporting for the kickoff of the Leadership Development in Public Safety Certification Program on Friday, Jan. 15, were 36 members of PCFR’s workforce, including emergency medical technicians, paramedics, lieutenants, battalion chiefs, and deputy chiefs. Between January and May, they will complete 160 hours of training in a wide range of topics, including stress management, goal setting, strategic planning, diversity and inclusion, business writing, presentation strategies, generational differences in the workplace and teambuilding, all led by subject-matter experts selected by the Polk State Corporate College.
Participants will also take tours of the Polk County Emergency Communications Center, Florida Holocaust Museum and Tampa Fire Museum, and take part in career development activities, a creativity session modeled after the show “Shark Tank,” and a discussion with area chiefs.
The program will culminate in certifications and as many as nine credits toward Polk State’s Associate in Science in Fire Science Technology.
During Friday’s opening session, participants heard from Polk State President Eileen Holden and Polk County Deputy County Manager for Public Safety Gary Hester, both of whom emphasized the importance of continual professional development.
“Force yourself in this program to think beyond who you are and beyond where you came from. See things through other people’s eyes. If you do, you’re going to get better,” Holden said.
“Your personality style won’t impact your ability to be a good leader. You don’t have to emulate someone you’re not. That’s not what this class is about. This is not an ‘if x happens, do y’ class. This is about challenging you to think about who you are, your strengths and weaknesses.”
Hester added that developing a pipeline of leadership to replace employees who retire from PCFR is critical to the agency’s ability to deliver high-quality service to the citizens of Polk County.
After the opening session, Battalion Chief Bobby Bohn, who has nearly 30 years with PCFR, said he hopes the leadership program will get the younger participants thinking about their futures.
“A lot of the folks, as they got up and introduced themselves, they said they were happy in the positions they’re in and they don’t want to pursue higher rankings,” he said. “We have to turn some of those thoughts around so that they want to be promoted and move ahead. That’s how we secure the longevity of the agency.”
The Polk State Corporate College provides customized workforce training through eight institutes, including the Advanced Manufacturing Institute, Child Care Training Institute, Contractor Safety Training Institute, Insurance Institute, IT/Computer Institute, Professional Development Institute, Real Estate Institute, and Supply Chain Management Institute.
The state-of-the-art Polk State Center for Public Safety is located at 1251 Jim Keene Blvd. in Winter Haven and houses the Polk State Kenneth C. Thompson Institute of Public Safety and the College’s degree programs in Criminal Justice, Emergency Medical Services, and Fire Science Technology.