Oxnard College Fire Academy wins prestigious award for program excellence


Cadet Melissa Corney watches the instructor prior to a live fire training exercise on the Oxnard College Fire technology training grounds in Camarillo, Calif. on Wednesday, Feb. 26. Corney is a student in the Fire Technology program. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

By Amber Urban

On Jan. 26, Bellwether College Consortium held a virtual event which consisted of a rigorous two-round competitive process for the top scored submissions which included Oxnard College Fire Academy.

The Fire Academy beat out nine other finalists including Oxnard College’s Dental Hygiene Program. They were recognized for the state’s first-ever hybrid format for firefighting instruction.

Matthew Jewett, the Dean of Oxnard College talked about the prestigious award they recently received.

“The Bellwether College Consortium is comprised of award-winning colleges charged with addressing critical issues facing community colleges through applicable research and the promotion and replication of best practices addressing workforce development, instructional programs and services, and planning governance and finance,” explained Jewett. “The selected colleges compete for one of three Bellwether Awards.”

According to the Bellwether Community College website, “The competition and selection bring a level of excellence that demonstrates the innovative spirit and results-driven mindset that exists among our finest community colleges”

The President of Oxnard College Luis P. Sanchez stated that he is quite proud of both programs, “This is the first year Oxnard College has won this award. The Fire Academy won the award for the Workforce Development Category which includes public and/or private strategic alliances and partnerships that promote community and economic development by producing workforce.”

Any institution that feels it has an innovative and impactful program that falls within one of Bellwether’s award categories is welcome to apply.

Oxnard College Director of Marketing James Schuelke stated, “We don’t have to meet specific criteria around, say, student success metrics to be eligible. We need to demonstrate that we have a cutting-edge program that’s worth imitating on other campuses

The students and staff of Oxnard College Fire Academy faced several challenges during hybrid instruction. As mentioned in the Oxnard College digital binder pages 4-6, the regulations for Covid-19 safety were a top priority for Oxnard College Fire Academy.

Training programs to become a firefighter require many regulations to be followed and put into place ensuring proper safety protocols. Based upon these requirements, during Covid-19, the school had to work toward changes in order to adapt and continue by creating modifications while still remaining compliant with the state’s guidelines.

With the enhancements they made to fit the current times, the first successful hybrid program was created by Oxnard College in the history of California. The updates to the program created by Oxnard College provided success for multiple schools duplicating the changes as well as created opportunities for those providing instruction in this field for the future.

During the Covid-19 lockdown, the school created a Covid-19 Response team which included personnel from all areas of the college. A plan was developed by this team called Project Recover, which worked towards adapting to the current state of the virus and worked towards bringing the students back into class and continuing the program.

Project Recover worked towards creating a safe environment for the students and staff, creating procedures to maintain a clean and healthy environment and providing the proper tools necessary to use during Covid-19. The team and project were finalized within a two week period, which was then submitted to the County Public Health Department and Chancellor’s Office to request for approval. The school obtained approval from both offices, allowing the program to continue.