It's not every career that you can just walk into without on-the-job training.

But with the cooperation of area police agencies and Utah Valley Community College, people wanting to become police or fire dispatchers can step right in when openings come up.The Provo Police Department and other public safety agencies have initiated a Public Safety Dispatch Academy to train students as dispatchers. Last week was the academy's first graduation, with certificates going to 14 of 15 students enrolled in the course.

"It takes us three months to properly train a person (with no experience) to become a dispatcher in our organization," Provo Police Capt. Paul Markling, said. "The same problem applies to other dispatch centers our size. It is time-consuming to train properly."

That's why the dispatch academy came to be, he said. "This will give us a pool of trained dispatchers to use for replacement on short notice."

In general, a dispatcher leaves, a new person is hired and another dispatcher is taken away from his or her work to train the new person. Essentially, the Police Department is then short two dispatchers instead of one, not the best situation for an agency that deals with emergency calls, he said.

The academy course lasts three months, and students learn everything from the legal aspects of the job to proper dispatching procedures.

"We make sure they are CPR-certified and certified in emergency medical dispatching," Markling said. "We teach them how to interview for jobs. This is a complete course in preparing them for a job with a dispatch center. We want to train them to come out and be ready to go on the radio."

Students are taught techniques for dispatching not only in emergency situations but also in all areas of public safety, he said. One recent graduate was hired as a dispatcher for a train company.

"There are quite a few jobs available in this area for dispatchers, and it is not a bad-paying job," he said. Provo Police, for example, starts full-time dispatchers at $7.65 an hour.

To be hired as a dispatcher, students must have no criminal history, no speech or hearing impairments, a high school diploma, typing experience, interpersonal skills and the ability to perform concurrent multiple tasks.

The next class at the academy will begin Aug. 22. No more than 25 students will be accepted. The course consists of 96 hours of training and lasts 12 weeks. Fee for the course is $250, which includes the training manual, books and certificate of completion.

The academy is sponsored by UVCC and is conducted by Provo and Orem police and the Utah County sheriff's central dispatch. Classes are held in the Provo Police training room. UVCC credit is available.

For more information call 222-8000 ext. 528.