By Sloane M. Perron, Manager of Marketing Communications
Anna Maria College was the first four-year college in the state to offer 911 dispatch training to students. Since 1990, Anna Maria College has been at the forefront of training new generations of leaders who serve as the first line of public safety even before the first responders arrive.
The 911 dispatch training on campus is free and open to any Anna Maria students interested in the field, regardless of major. This year’s annual training took place during Spring Break with 13 students completing five days of in-class training under the instruction of telecommunicator instructor Tim Buckley followed by two days of training in a dispatch center where students interact with the equipment they will be using in the role. After completing the Association of Public Safety Officers Public Safety Training, students receive a dispatch certification which opens doors to new career opportunities.
In addition to offering free dispatch training, Anna Maria College is officially partnering with the City of Worcester’s Department of Emergency Communications & Management resulting in internships and part-time employment opportunities for Anna Maria students at the dispatch center.
Preparing students for a career-ready future
Chief David Armstrong, Senior Advisor to Criminal Justice Operations at Anna Maria College, was one of the founding leaders of the 911 dispatch training program when it began over 30 years ago. He believes that emergency dispatching is great for individuals who are looking for a service-oriented career where they make a difference in peoples’ lives every day.
“The training gives students an opportunity to get a certificate right off the bat and become hireable. Even before there was a hiring crisis in dispatching, it’s a great entry position and a great way to start your career in government or criminal justice. Or it might be the job that you stay with for the rest of your career,” the Chief said.
The fast-paced and eventful world of emergency dispatch means that no two days on the job are the same. From medical emergencies and car crashes to reporting crimes and fires, dispatchers are the first line of comfort and help when the public faces emergency situations. In addition to traditional 911 calls, the City of Worcester has also developed a new 311 line where residents can reach out with non-emergency questions about everyday issues. Both emergency and non-emergency lines are open to student internships.
“It’s not TV, and it’s not the classroom, you could be at the dispatch center in the Worcester PD, and it can be very serious all of a sudden. Natural disasters, fires, missing people, all these things kick in. It’s real life. And I think the more that our students get that unique hands-on experience, the more competitive they become for the future careers that they are working towards,” Armstrong said.
Anna Maria students in the field
Forensic Criminology graduate, Yarelis Rivera ‘19, exemplifies how Anna Maria College students become trained professionals who answer the call for help, in her case literally.
The Worcester 911 Dispatch covers the City of Worcester, the Worcester Police Department, the Worcester Fire Department, and the town of Leicester. The Center receives 120,000 911 calls annually making it one of the largest in the Commonwealth.
Rivera works as a Regional Dispatcher #3 which means that she trains newcomers on protocol and equipment. As a student in the Criminal Justice field, Rivera turned Anna Maria’s focus on service into a purposeful career.
“The most rewarding part of my job is helping people,” River said, “You get to help the community that you live in and the people who you live amongst.”
Opportunities for the future
Charles Goodwin is the Director of Worcester’s Emergency Communications & Management who is excited to work with Anna Maria students through the new partnership. The field of 911 dispatch has undergone tremendous change over the past 30 years since Anna Maria’s training was founded, but it is now facing unprecedented challenges with worker shortages in a post-pandemic world. The agreement would be mutually beneficial for students seeking hands-on experience and for the dispatch center which is looking for trained professionals who can provide lifesaving services in times of crisis.
“Our partnership between the City of Worcester and Anna Maria College is offering students internships, bringing them in to see what a live 911 dispatcher center looks like, how it operates, and to learn from our staff to advance some of their education, but to also giving them the opportunity to contribute with us. To help develop trainings and help us look at new ways of doing things,” Director Goodwin said about the future internships in store for Anna Maria students.
Patience, empathy, professionalism, and the ability to multitask are just a few of the qualities that Goodwin looks for in the dispatchers that he hires. His advice for Anna Maria College students who want a career in emergency dispatch is to never give up and to keep trying.
“It’s not one of the easiest jobs to be in, but it is one of the most fulfilling jobs,” Goodwin said about working in emergency dispatch, “You get to help people in a way that you never get the opportunity to do in any other career field. You get to help them and talk to them and console them at one of the hardest times in their life when they are calling 911. Most people do not call 911 often in their life, it’s a very difficult time for them, so being that calm voice on the other end in a sea of chaos is really a fulfilling career.”
Anna Maria College would like to extend a special thank you to Frank Pozinak, executive director of the Massachusetts State 911 Department, and Monna Wallace, director of Programs for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, for their continual support of Anna Maria’s 911 dispatch training.
For more information about Anna Maria College’s Criminal Justice BS program visit https://annamaria.edu/academics/undergraduate-studies/criminal-justice/