Toledo firefighters will be able to participate in distance training from fire science instructors at Owens Community College through SkillLINK®, an interactive video system relayed over a fiber-optic telecommunications network of Ameritech.
SkillLINK simulates a live classroom experience using a two-way, full-color, full-motion, interactive video system. Instructors may use dynamic teaching tools such as film clips, graphics or personal computers, and interact with all of the firefighters.
Area residents will benefit from SkillLINK because firefighters can remain in the fire station and on call at all times while receiving training.
Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said he is very pleased with the new system that provides valuable training for Toledo firefighters, yet allows them to maintain their quick response time for emergencies.
"This fiber-optic training system represents a number of firsts - both for our city and for the Department of Fire and Rescue Operations," the Mayor said. "This cooperative venture represents the first time anywhere that a municipal fire department, a state community college and a private communications carrier have collaborated on such a training system."
"This system represents progressive and innovative cooperation between the public and private sectors to address a need within the emergency services," Mayor Finkbeiner added.
Owens Community College President Daniel H. Brown said the College is excited to extend its commitment to Lucas County and the City of Toledo.
"Owens Community College has a long history of meeting the educational and training needs of Lucas County. And as a leader in providing state-of-the-art education, we feel this partnership is a perfect extension of our commitment to the area's residents," President Brown said.
Fire Chief Michael Bell identified stations within his department that initially would serve the greatest number of students. "We're extremely proud of this system," Chief Bell said. "From the standpoint of fire service in the United States, we believe this is state of the art."
Bell said area residents can feel reassured by the continued presence of firefighters in the stations while their training is updated.
"In the past, significant portions of training were conducted away from our duty areas," Bell explained. "This practice removed the emergency equipment from its first response district. While other units are available to cover in their absence, the response times are frequently longer. "
Instruction will be conducted from Owens Community College and broadcast to the receiving sites located at one of the fire stations and at an Emergency Medical Services training classroom.
Along with participating in training courses via SkillLINK, firefighters also will benefit from Owens Community College courses that lead to earning an associate's degree in fire science.
Stanley Miller, vice president of external relations for Ameritech Ohio, said he also is glad to participate in this partnership. Ameritech Ohio has installed all fiber-optic cable to the receiving sites, as well as all needed equipment in their central locations for actual system configuration. "This is technology designed to serve the people," he said.
In 1992, Owens Community College, Ameritech Ohio and the Ohio Manufacturer's Association joined together to bring SkillLINK to the Toledo and Findlay communities. The Ohio Board of Regents awarded a $300,000 grant to the College for expansion of the program earlier this year.
Among the Northwest Ohio businesses who already are participating in SkillLINK are Ball Metal Container Corp., Libbey Inc., Centrex Corp. and Whirlpool Corp.
Courses offered via SkillLINK include job specific skill training, computer literacy, clerical instruction and management training, as well as a number of liberal arts college courses.
These businesses have found that SkillLINK provides training programs for employees while eliminating travel time and expenses, improves employee efficiency, demonstrates a commitment by management to employees, attracts and retains a skilled workforce and keeps jobs in the community.
For employees, SkillLINK creates opportunity, makes advanced training convenient and accessible, motivates them and increases self-esteem and performance, plus it allows them to acquire new skills to meet an employer's changing needs.