AN AYRSHIRE firefighter who overcame racism and a lack of opportunities to join the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has urged others to seize their chance of a dream job.

Leroy Shaw, 40, grew up in Birmingham in the 1980s and he has spoken of his experiences during October’s Black History Month.

Leroy grew up in an area blighted by racism and where youngsters had limited options, and he didn’t excel at school. After going from job to job, Leroy eventually set his sights on becoming a firefighter and fulfilled his dream in 2009.

He said: “My only insight to the fire service came from watching London’s Burning, which had one black firefighter.

“Where I lived, racism was a problem and, for me, the uniformed services just seemed off limits. You never saw anyone like me in a fire engine – it was always white Caucasian male faces.

“While at school I didn’t really stick in and was a bit of a joker. But when I eventually looked into joining the fire service, I realised I had other skills which would help me become a firefighter.”

The dad-of-one is determined to appeal to others from under-represented demographics to believe in themselves and consider a career with the SFRS.

Leroy believes Scotland’s fire service needs to become more diverse and feels bringing together groups of people with different experiences can only be a good thing.

He said: “I’m the only one of my friends to have joined the uniformed services. It’s hard to say why more people from under-represented groups don’t apply for such jobs, but kids maybe see the stereotype and think it’s not for them.

“It would be good to have more people from different backgrounds with different experiences and it would be nice to see more of a mix. I think that could only be a good thing.”

Black History Month launched on October 1, with the 2021 theme of ‘Proud to Be’.

The campaign called on black and ethnic minority people across the world to share why they are proud to be who they are and celebrate their contributions to their communities and society.

Assistant Chief Officer Stuart Stevens, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Ethnic Minority Champion, said: “Serving Scotland’s diverse communities is an honour, and I am fully committed to advocating for excellent public services that meet the unique needs of different community groups.

“Stories such as Leroy’s allow us to listen and learn through someone else’s lived experience.

“We take this opportunity to listen and learn as we keep working to support our drive to be more inclusive as a Service and as a society.”