Volunteer trainer assessors give back to their community through training

Gerold Seppelt

Riding trucks as a volunteer firefighter for 41 years, Gerold Seppelt always found immense enjoyment helping his community, but even then, it didn’t quite fulfill his desire to give back and help others.

A few years into his time at the CFS, Gerold signed up as a Volunteer Trainer Assessor to teach volunteers specialty skills at the agency.

“When you think that we’re actually training thousands of volunteers on a regular basis every year that’s a pretty amazing effort for a group of people who do it because they just want to,” Gerold said.

The CFS has more than 260 trainer assessors, 200 of whom are volunteers donating their time to other volunteers. Courses range from the basics of firefighting to a five-day specialty course in bushfire investigations and even safely responding to road crashes. Most courses have been developed by CFS volunteers and staff, drawing on their years of valuable experience. The earliest examples date back to 1983 when training manuals to become a Level 1 firefighter were produced using typewriters and hand-drawn diagrams and images. In 1987, Gerold was involved in creating an instructor course for Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA), he said there’s nothing quite like being able to communicate ideas, knowledge and skill sets.

“There’s something pretty amazing about someone coming to you as an inexperienced and untrained individual and seeing them walk away at the end of a day and they can actually do something they couldn’t do before and they have new knowledge and you realise that you actually imparted that to them, it’s an amazing feeling.”

Ultimately we’re giving back to the community through these people that we’re training.

Gerold said the HazMat course is one of the most interesting and important courses to teach.

“The specialty of dealing with an unknown substance, which is somewhat challenging and potentially highly dangerous is what I find most interesting, plus now with the technologies that we have to make identifications on the fly.”

Without the volunteer trainer’s goodwill, dedication and passion to training the CFS wouldn’t have the capacity to deliver the volume of training we currently do. It’s a rewarding experience but one that takes up a lot of time.

“You finish work on a Friday, then go to the State Training Centre on the weekend and sometimes you don’t get back home until late on a Sunday night.”

“There can be a big personal cost in participating in that and not always being with your family.”

Recognising the many hours and hard work CFS trainer assessors dedicate to teaching volunteers, the CFS was recently identified as one of the top three Large Employers at the 2023 Australian Training Awards, after winning the South Australian Training Awards. An unexpected but welcome result for the hundreds of trainers across the state like Gerold Seppelt.

“It’s a big pat on the back for our trainer assessors,” he said.

“Everyone should be really proud because there are a lot of people who have given so much of their time and effort over the years.”

Gerold and friends