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Officers fired up to improve computer skills through ECDL

As part of the Mid and West Wales Fire Service's IT implementation programme, fire officers are to be the first in the UK to embark upon a programme to enhance their computer skills by studying and qualifying for the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL).

Fire stations have been equipped with a full range of IT facilities allowing staff to access the brigade's e-mail network, intranet, system applications and standard office programmes such as word processing, presentations and spreadsheets.

Taking the qualification will allow fire officers the opportunity to learn how to use the equipment effectively. Robert Rees training manager at Mid and West Wales Fire Brigade explains: "We now see IT as an operational facility and therefore the requirement to maximise its use is essential. ECDL will give our officers the skill base to make effective use of the systems they will be using. Gaining the qualification will also help officers to progress up the career ladder as we view ECDL as a prerequisite for the post of supervisory officer."

As the Mid and West Wales Fire Brigade covers two-thirds of Wales and employs 1400 staff, classroom training was not considered logistically possible. To overcome this, officers study on-line through the brigade's intranet and self test modules. In order to maintain control of the programme and monitor staff development the brigade has achieved the status of ECDL accredited test centre.

Fire officers use computers for a variety of duties such as the control and mobilisation of fire crews, using software tools for presentations and trend analysis for arson and fire incidents, and for general administrative tasks.

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