Interoperability for Professional Development: The National Professional Development Model and Matrix

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National Professional Development Matrix: Background, Explanation, and Applications

With few exceptions, anyone trying to acquire an associate’s or bachelor’s degree or his/her next desired level of certification, regardless of where, has discovered that the process was, at best, cumbersome. Consequently, fire and emergency services personnel are getting their professional development in inefficient and uneconomical ways including having:

As citizens expect their tax dollars to be spent wisely, the public has the right to ask:

How many times should a fire department pay for a firefighter or officer to accomplish the same job-related competency?

At the annual Fire and Emergency Services Higher Education (FESHE) conferences and committee meetings sponsored by the National Fire Academy (NFA), efforts have been made to address this problem of a stove-piped system of professional development by creating the National Professional Development Model for fire officers that integrates training, education, and certification.

Because fire and emergency services functions have their own career and professional development tracks, models have been created for them, as well. To date, models are also developed for fire prevention and EMS management.

None of these models are promotional ones; rather, they are competency-based professional development paths supported by their training, higher education, and certification elements. Each model has prescribed recommendations for how a competency can be addressed by any of the three elements.

Conceptually, the models represent the idea of "Interoperability for Professional Development":

The imperative for interoperability of radios and hoses so that they connect and work together is matched by the need for training, education and certification to do the same.

NFA has since brought FESHE representatives together to create the National Professional Development Matrix (NPDM) that moves the models from concept to reality.

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The NPDM is designed for training and certification agencies and academic fire programs to assist the emergency services personnel they serve. NFA has produced a template which has cross-walked Fire Officer I - IV competencies with "national" level courses that included NFA training courses, FESHE model associate’s and bachelor’s courses and general education courses recommended by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) in its Officer Development Handbook (PDF, 1.1 Mb).

States are urged to customize this template by adding their own standards, job performance requirements (JPR), training and college courses. The forum for this process is the state professional development summit by which the state leaders and key stakeholders assemble to "fill in the blanks" of the Matrix.

The Matrix is a spreadsheet that is designed to bring competencies, education, and training together in one common document, customized to meet the needs of stakeholders in each state, providing a unified national professional development path. It is designed to be a computer-based tool for fire science and training coordinators, certification advisors, and others around the state who advise students and candidates. The outcome of this process is that everyone statewide will have and provide the same information.

For those responsible for customizing the Matrix at the state and local levels, including the plug-in of training and college courses and correlating the four levels of competencies with the NFPA standards and job performance requirements, the Background, Explanation, and Applications has been developed explaining how each of the elements are applied. Another helpful document is a spreadsheet that crosswalks all of NFA’s on- and off-campus courses with the American Council of Education’s credit recommendations by subject area. This crosswalk is reflected in the "Education" and "General Education" columns of the Matrix.

For more information, please post a comment to the National Fire Academy.