PARKERSBURG - Aaron Lee Smith is the first intern to come through a new collaborative internship program at the Wood County 911 Center and has been hired at the Core Road Central Telecommunications Center.
"We learned of internship programs that were in place at other centers around the country," said Assistant 911 Director Carl Sizemore, who is coordinating the new internship program at the 911 center.
"Randy (Lowe) and I talked about it and contacted local schools to see if they were interested. We got a response back from West Virginia University at Parkersburg and the Caperton Center Emergency Response Service Program. The Caperton program serves junior and senior high school students," said Sizemore.
Aaron Lee Smith, the first to come through Wood County 911’s new internship program, is now on the job in the 911 Central Telecommunications Center on Core Road. (Photo by Pamela Brust)
The WVU-P Criminal Justice Program also offers an internship program in which students come out to the 911 center and observe to get class credit.
"But with this program, the student actually goes through the basic telecommunicator course and gets their certification which is a 54-hour class, so they are certified nationally," Sizemore said.
The new 911 internship program began in January.
Its first graduate, Smith was hired at the 911 center and is a probationary telecommunicator. He is currently training on the call taker position under a trainer. Once he completes that, he will be reviewed and will then proceed to the other computer-aided dispatch positions, Sizemore said.
Smith started as an intern in the program on Jan. 22 and the program ran about 18 weeks.
"He would come into the center two to three hours a day two or three times a week, taking the basic course and observing. Towards the end, he was tied into calls so he could listen and monitor the calls, but he wasn't actually taking calls," Sizemore said. "The training is a pretty lengthy process."
Smith applied to the center immediately.
"He was anxious to get on and so far has worked out really well," Sizemore said. "We just started this program at the beginning of this year, but it's been very successful, and we hope it continues to be very successful."
Smith was hired Aug. 1 for his duties at the center. He filled a vacancy created by a resignation.
"He's still in training, a trainer works with him on shift, he's on his 18th day of training now, it will be EMS next, then fire, it will probably be another six to eight weeks," Sizemore said.
"We wanted someone who was really interested in the program," Sizemore said. "We felt it would be good to get them in here and get the basic class out of the way through the internship, give them that experience and see if they really are interested. This job is not for everyone, it's a very stressful, multi-tasking position and some people are not cut out for that. This internship program is good for them and for us," he said.
"We encourage, even before the interview process, all prospective telecommunicators, to spend six to 12 hours observing. We've had a couple that decided the job is not for them," Sizemore said.
Smith, 18, was taking classes for fire and EMS.
"My instructor at the Caperton Center told me about this intern program, and that opened up this opportunity. I actually hadn't had this in mind before that," Smith said.
"Different people definitely have different demeanors when they call, some are calm, others are panicky, yelling and you have to try and calm them down to get the correct information," he said.
Career-wise, long-term, Smith said he's interested in emergency management, or working in the fire marshal's office. But public safety service is definitely in his blood.
"I've been a volunteer on the Mineral Wells Fire Department since I was 16," he said.
The Caperton Center program is a joint project with the Wood County Schools.
Smith is a 2013 graduate of Parkersburg South High School and anticipates graduating from WVU-P's Criminal Justice Program in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice.
For more information on the intern program, contact Sizemore at 304-420-0911 at the 911 center.