ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — New recruitment efforts by the Round Rock Fire Department and Travis County Emergency Services District No. 2 are widening the applicant pool.

“In the past, you had to come to the city with a fire certification and at minimum an EMT certification,” said Round Rock Fire Chief Shane Glaiser.

The department’s new “Green Academy” works around that step. Round Rock hires cadets who haven’t gotten certified yet and provides them with classroom and hands-on training to prepare to take a state certification test. They get paid as city employees throughout the process.

“That’s what can inhibit people from going to fire school, because they can’t work and so they’re paying for school and don’t have an income,” said Glaiser. “It allowed us to find people who have thought about being a firefighter but didn’t know which schools to attend. And then now we’re putting them through all the paces here.”

Round Rock’s Green Academy launched Monday. Travis County ESD No. 2’s is already underway.

“We found civilians, hired them, gave them paid on-the-job training,” said ESD 2 Chief Nick Perkins. “And we’ve now solved that hiring issue that many departments are facing.”

Both cities continue to grow quickly, putting strain on first responder departments.

“This is a long-term investment for the City of Round Rock,” said Billy Colburn, president of the Round Rock Firefighters Association. “You’re talking career firefighters that don’t come and go. We’re looking to get 25-30 years out of an employee, and you can’t replace that.”

The 19 that made the cut for the Green Academy had to pass an aptitude test and a preliminary physical test. The City of Round Rock will pay the salaries for the firefighters-in-training. Colburn said the funds come from money allocated towards the program in the city budget.