From ripping up carpets to putting out fire pits

A dyslexic firefighter has said he wants to re-write the narrative about the job after fulfilling his dream and passing his training.

Toby Holway, 28, had been working as a self employed floor layer when his partner spotted an advert for firefighters on the side of a fire appliance.

Earlier this year the Nottingham native began looking at his career options after the Coronavirus pandemic saw his labouring work dry up.

He was successful in applying to join Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) and in September made his move up north.

For the last 12 weeks he has completed a gruelling training regime that includes physical, oral and written assessments.

But despite his dyslexia diagnosis Toby passed with flying colours and he is now set to be deployed on the frontline as a firefighter in South Shields.

The fledgling firefighter 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, but 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 admits the classroom based assessments haven’t always smooth sailing

He says he struggled in school and always knew there was something not quite right before he was formally diagnosed with dyslexia at university.

But that didn’t stop him chasing his dream of becoming a firefighter and today he encouraged others who might have additional needs to not be put off.

Toby said “I found it embarrassing if I’m honest and I didn’t want anyone to know I was dyslexic, but as I’ve gotten older I realise there is no shame in asking for help when I need it.

“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 it’s really 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.”

Toby is the son of an English father and Indian mother says he is also proud to be one of the few minority recruits to join TWFRS in recent years.

He has supported the Services’ attempts to diversify the workforce and hopes that the image of a mixed race firefighter can inspire future generations.

He said: “I’m proud of my mixed heritage and in my role as a firefighter I’m able to influence and change people’s lives.

“Hopefully I can do that, whether it’s nu saving them from a burning building or talking to children in school.”

And today (Monday) Assistant Chief Fire Officer Lynsey McVay, has praised Toby for his openness and encourages more of the region to become part of the fire family.

She said: “It’s incredibly hard to disclose whether you need extra support sometimes but I’m glad that Toby did, 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.

“This is the biggest recruitment drive we’ve done in years and we want to celebrate the new faces that you will be seeing in your area keeping you safe.”

Toby and his fellow trainees passed out on Friday, December 17th, after completing a string of classroom based assessments.