In the News
CAPCOG partners to teach a career and technical education program
Monday, March 20, 2017
An emergency telecommunicator career and technical education program at Austin Independent School District’s Akins High School is prepping students for a future in public safety communications, but it is also helping fulfill a need in the emergency response industry. The program has partnered with the Combined Transportation and Emergency Communications Center (CTECC) agencies — Austin-Travis County EMS, Austin Fire Department, Austin Police Department and Travis County Sheriff’s Office — to give students real-life experience in the field, and this year, CAPCOG joined in educating the students.
The program teaches valuable career skills through an apprenticeship or internship style course during the students’ senior year, but it also gives students a career choice to pursue right after graduation, said Carmen Garcia, an Akins High School internship program teacher. CAPCOG is helping ensure the students have the tools they need to enter the field upon graduation by providing guest lecturers such as Kelsey Dean, a CAPCOG Public Safety Answering Point Specialist and emergency telecommunicator instructor. During Dean’s first lecture in February, she instructed shorter versions of emergency telecommunicator training courses and explained how students could show their learning experience on resumes.
The Akins High School’s internship program is awe-inspiring for the students and those teaching it, Dean said. “The students understand the seriousness of this profession. They have a passion for helping people and are excited about the career, which is everything you need to do this job. It makes me hopeful that getting students involved with programs such as this will help tackle turnover issues facing the industry nation-, no world-wide.”
Having CAPCOG participate in the program has provided a unique experience for the students, Garcia said. The students learn a lot shadowing CTECC emergency telecommunicators, but working with CAPCOG has offered them a chance to experience adult professional development. Just like a common practice in CAPCOG emergency telecommunicator courses, the Akins students analyzed real 9-1-1 calls to determine how they could answer them differently, while Dean provided feedback and critiques.
“This type of activity helps develop your radio ear and helps improve your call taking and dispatching abilities,” Dean said. “These are improved communications skills that allow you to hear all the details of a conversation and communicate them properly while judging what is most important. As an emergency telecommunicator if you miss one word, you could send an unprepared officer into a dangerous situation or dispatch a medical team to a wrong address when seconds matter.”
Dean taught the students shortened versions of professional telecommunicator training courses — CAPCOG’s 40-hour licensing course and crisis communications course. The students learned about topics such as basic call taking techniques, stress management, and how to talk to hysterical callers. Dean will teach the students again in April. She plans on running mock 9-1-1 calls and introducing the students to Criticall, one of the nation’s foremost pre-employment exams for emergency telecommunicators. Criticall measures a person’s typing, listening, directional and other skills related to answering 9-1-1 calls.