MENTOR, Ohio — The call to recruit more first responders is growing each day.
Police, fire and paramedics once had long lines full of interested applicants.
But now, they say, many are turning away from these careers.
“There’s a shortage and they really, really need the help, and I feel really special with just being a part of those people that they, you know, somewhat recruit for help,” said Mentor High School Senior Yoson Porter.
As local paramedics struggle to recruit staff, they have help coming in from Mentor High School students like Yoson.
“There’s like a really good opportunity for me moving forward, especially coming out of high school,” Yoson said.
Yoson and this team of more than a dozen students are receiving this training opportunity thanks to a grant from the Innovative Workforce Incentive Program, or I-WIP.
The state awarded $81,000 in grants for Mentor Exempted Village to begin their EMT program, where they currently have 16 students enrolled.
“We’re paying schools an incentive to graduate more students, and when we do that, everybody wins, because businesses get the talent they need,” Lt. Governor Jon Husted said.
Governor Mike DeWine and Husted introduced the initiative in 2021 as a first step to address a critical need across all industries, including public safety.
“When I was a young person going for a fire/EMS job, there would be hundreds of applicants; nowadays, you may see 40-50 people that are trying to get into this line of work,” said Mentor Fire EMT Academy Instructor Jerry Craddock.
“We can’t seem to attract competent, capable people who want to do this job,” said Northwest Ambulance District Administrator and Paramedic Vince Gildone.
EMS leaders like Vince Gildone have spoken to News 5 for previous news stories about staffing and funding shortages.
He’s calling on state leaders to do more, like considering the EMS system as an essential service.
“We think it would open up some funding issues which might help attract employees because we’re currently not paying — you know you can go to other places and make more money than what you can make in EMS,” Gildone said.
But with the help of I-WIP, the state hopes it can provide some relief, while also giving students like Mentor High School senior Taylor Williams valuable exposure.
“This really does fill a need. Number one, we know that it’s going to produce EMTs, paramedics, firefighters, nurses,” Craddock said.
“I feel like it’s going to save me a lot of money in the long-run, and also give me a head start into my career,” Taylor said.
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