Police force shortages mean rosy job prospects for P.E.I program grads
The Atlantic Police Academy in Summerside expects all of its police sciences grads to have jobs lined up by the time they graduate in a few months' time.
Officials with the academy, which is part of Holland College, say police departments across the country are reaching out looking for cadets, and many students are already getting job offers.
"There's vacancies everywhere. There's a huge demand," said Jeff Minten, executive director of the academy.
He added that he expects that demand to continue for the next decade.
Cadet Kelly-Anne Roberts has a job waiting for her in Newfoundland. She's a former journalist who had been thinking about becoming a police officer for years.
"I have a conditional offer at this point; I just need to graduate here," she said. "Everything is looking good at this point."
Roberts said all the students are very aware of the shortages and excited about having a choice of opportunities. She said lots of police agencies have been visiting to recruit them.
The 29-year-old said she expects her life experience will help her handle the pressures of being a police officer. On top of that, she said the program puts a strong emphasis on mental health and wellbeing.
"There's a big focus on it… how to take care of ourselves and how to make sure that we're able to be our best so we can provide the best," she said.
'The calm in the storm for somebody'
Dallas Woodworth will be working in Fredericton after graduation. He will be doing on-the-job training there over the summer and hopes to be hired after that.
"There's lots of job opportunity. If you want to move anywhere in the Atlantic provinces or out West, the sky's the limit," he said.
Woodworth chose the career because he has a son with autism and witnessed how much police officers cared when his son went missing at one point.
"I want to be that person to somebody," he said. "I know I can be the calm in the storm for somebody,"
Woodworth said everyone in the program is excited to be close to graduation and getting to do the job "for real."
Promoting policing as a career
In recent months, the RCMP and other police departments across Canada have spoken out about staffing shortages and the need to increase recruitment efforts. Some have even changed their hiring criteria in hopes of attracting more people to policing.
The Canadian Police Association is concerned about shortages and trying to figure out ways to improve numbers.
Corporal Tim Keizer works with the Charlottetown Police and also sits on the board of directors of the Canadian Police Association.
"This is an ongoing discussion on how to recruit and retain people in the field of policing," he said. "It's absolutely noticeable right now, the shortage of police."
Keizer said he hopes views of policing are changing, and more people see it as a positive and worthwhile job opportunity.
"If we promote it, we can get young people interested in a career," he said.
Keizer said one downside of the demand for policing grads is that the City of Charlottetown won't be able to have recent grads working as summer staff as they have in the past, because so many full-time jobs are available elsewhere.
"Our population explodes in the summer months, and that was always something that was sustainable in the past because we had access to these extra bodies, and now we no longer have that," he said.
"The reality is that you're running with less numbers than we would have 10 years ago."
More interest in career
Minten said it seems interest in policing as a career is on the rise. In the past, he said, some Atlantic Police Academy classes would have unfilled spots: "We've had a dozen vacancies or more."
In the last few years, though, application numbers have increased. Minten said he believes people have heard about the shortages, and thinks the COVID-19 pandemic gave many people more time to think about career goals and life interests.
"We have a significant number of people applying," he said, adding that training programs for corrections officers, conservation officers and sheriffs are also seeing a big demand.
The demand is out there and we're trying our best to just try to increase the capacity to meet that demand. — Jeff Minten, Atlantic Police Academy executive director
At the moment, there are about 50 cadets enrolled in the police sciences program at the academy.
Minten said they hope to increase that number in the future.
"I think the growth is inevitable," he said. "You know, right now the demand is out there and we're trying our best to just try to increase the capacity to meet that demand."