LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — “There was times where you had to batten down the hatches and push through,” EMT graduate Josh Raffensberger said.

In the training room of the Lancaster EMS building, a total of seven students are one step closer to playing a vital role in responding to emergencies and serving the community.

“It makes me feel like I’m doing something it’s paying off what we’re doing that we’re actually going to be doing something productive for this community,” Raffensberger said.

During training, students earned $13.00 an hour, and in January 2022 pay will bump up to $19.00 an hour.

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Instructors with this first graduating class say they understand pay is a huge factor in keeping their first responders.

“You can go to industries around Lancaster County, larger companies like Sheetz, retail, Wawa where everyone is offering at least $15.00 an hour. We recognize that and we have for many years,” Director of Instruction Richard Pearson said.

“I left a high paying highly skilled job, to come here it was a good opportunity, just went with the wind like I said now I’m here and I’m happy,” EMT graduate Christopher Trostle said.

Trostle says yes, the pay could be higher but this is where he wants to be and help fill the need for more emergency responders.

“Talking with the co-workers and the people who have been training me out on the actual trucks it’s been nice knowing that I’m able to give them some breathing room but we defiantly still have a lot of people and retention work to do,” Trostle said.

Instructors say this new EMT academy has been in the works for two years. Lancaster EMS is down 23 full-time EMT workers, graduates are guaranteed a job, and will have an eighteen-month EMS commitment.

“Treat people like how you want to be treated, and always remember that, how would you want your grandmother to be treated, how would you want your grandparents to be treated, how would you want your significant other to be treated?” EMT Instructor Richard Canard said.

The next program begins on March 14.