BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB)–While some people may struggle with finding employment amid the pandemic, one thing is certain. Firefighters are in high demand. Several departments across Bay County are reporting multiple openings. Amid the search to fill these openings, Gulf Coast Stage College is gearing up to host their next fire academy and they are inviting anyone interested to apply.

Jobs for firefighters is expected to grow 6% within the next 9 years according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“When I started, a lot of the departments around here added stations and there were more firefighters but all of them are retirement age and moving on,” said Kevin Granberg, Gulf Coast State College’s Fire Services Coordinator.

Firefighters moving on leaves departments across Bay County with vacancies to fill.

“Panama City Beach just opened a new station within the last year and they’ve been recruiting and hired 18 new firefighters. That’s probably the biggest hiring pool we’ve had,” said Granberg.

Now, Gulf Coast State College is preparing the area’s next round of first responders.

“The first part of the class is a lot of lecture and then the whole class is minimal standards, we’re teaching them the basics and then when they get to the departments, the departments will help,” said Granberg.

The academy’s next program which begins in early January is already halfway full. Applicants have until December 7th to apply.

“Gulf Coast runs around roughly 50 students per year and the job placement for those students is usually right away. Some of the students have been hired actually before they graduate,” said Granberg.

Some departments hiring in the area include Bay County, Panama City, Panama City Beach, Lynn Haven, and Springfield to name a few.