South Shields firefighter Toby overcomes dyslexia to pass training with “flying colours”
After seeing a massive reduction in his trade as a self-employed floor layer due to the Covid pandemic, Toby, 28, was considering a career change but was concerned his dyslexia may hold him back when it came to any written examinations.
However, after his partner saw an advert on the side of a fire appliance, looking to recruit and train new firefighters, Toby decided to take the plunge and, despite living in Nottingham at the time, applied to Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS).
Following his successful application, Toby made the move north and commenced on the TWFRS’s gruelling 12 week training programme that included physical, oral and written assessments.
Toby said: “During the pandemic I had a lot of time to reflect on what I wanted to do with my life - I wanted a career not just a job.
"I'd applied for a place back in Nottingham but unfortunately it didn't work out. When this opportunity was pointed out to me by my partner I couldn't miss the chance to try again and luckily this time it worked out."
Toby had no trouble tackling the physical demands of the training but he admitted the classroom assessments weren’t always smooth sailing. However, after passing “with flying colours” he’s now set to be deployed on the front-line as a firefighter in South Shields.
Toby’s achievement is even more satisfying after admitting he “struggled in school” and “always knew something was not quite right”, before eventually being diagnosed with dyslexia at university. He now hopes others facing the same challenge can use his success to follow their own career dream.
He said: "I found it embarrassing if I'm honest and I didn't want anyone to know I was dyslexic. As I've got older I realise there’s no shame in asking for help.
"All my trainers have been extremely helpful through the process, giving me extra exam time or helping with a little extra tutoring when I've needed it and it has made a massive difference.
"The training is tough. Juggling the physical and mental side has been exhausting but I know it's all going to be worth it in the end.
"The importance of performing well to keep the public safe is always at the back of your mind so it does spur you on."
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Lynsey McVay added: "It's incredibly hard to disclose whether you need extra support sometimes but I'm glad Toby did as his story will resonate with so many people in our region and hopefully encourages others to apply.
"We are proud to have Toby joining us. All of our recruits bring a new way of thinking to the organisation and we welcome it.”
Toby, who is the son of an English father and Indian mother, said he is also proud to be one of the few minority recruits to join TWFRS in recent years.
He added: "I'm proud of my mixed heritage and in my role as a firefighter I'm able to influence and change people’s lives.”
TWFRS are currently recruiting for a number of operational and corporate roles and further information can be found on their website.