Select Committee on Defence Second Report


THE STRATEGIC DEFENCE REVIEW: POLICY FOR PEOPLE

III RECRUITING: GETTING THE RIGHT PEOPLE

The recruitment challenge

23. The recruitment challenge the Services will face over the next 10 to 20 years is a fundamental one. They will need to recruit around 25,000 people a year for the foreseeable future. This will be in the context of an employment market which is not working in their favour. Unemployment levels are low and current predictions are that they will stay that way. The number of young people in further education has doubled compared with 10 years ago. The number in the target age group is shrinking: there are a third fewer 17-18 year-olds today compared with 20 years ago and the number of 16-24 year-olds has also fallen by a sixth in the same period, and is still falling.[41] The alternative to reaching their targets is that the Armed Forces will have to confront the limits on their capacity to recruit the right kind of people, and then adjust their ambitions accordingly. Whatever happens, they cannot afford to limit their access to people by appearing to exclude any group of fit, young people.

24. We have discussed above the problems arising from the reduced visibility of the Armed Forces in society, which must have an effect on the likelihood of young people joining the Services. The type of careers the Services offer are less attractive to today's young people, many of whom find the idea of being tied into a job for a number of years too restrictive a prospect.[42] Nor do the Services have the appeal they once did in providing an opportunity to travel which civilians might not enjoy.[43]

25. Professor Christopher Dandeker, Head of the War Studies Department at King's College, London, believed that reluctance to join the Armed Forces does not result from the Services being held in low esteem by wider society—

    ... it is perfectly possible for members of the civilian community to value the armed services, and indeed trust the armed services ... It is also the case that the armed services are seen as doing a good job ... That does not mean that those same people would wish to join themselves or would necessarily recommend their children should join.[44]

Professor Strachan put this in an historical context: he believed the Armed Forces have had good public perceptions but low recruiting levels since the nineteenth century and 'the fact that the armed forces are below establishment is a normal condition of life'. The failure to meet manpower targets had not previously caused many difficulties. Relative undermanning, when operational tempo is not very high, can seem only to be a theoretical problem. Real problems are arising now, though, because the proportion of personnel deployed on operations creates a greater need for the Services to be at their full establishment levels.[45]

26. The Table below shows intake figures for the Armed Forces for the last 5 years.

Table 3

Intake to the Regular Forces 1995-96 to 1999-2000

  
1995-96
1996-97
1997-98
1998-99
1999-2000
All Services
    Officers
    Other Ranks
17,672
1,390
16,282
22,165
1,491
20,674
23,507
1,675
21,832
25,976
1,506
24,470
25,533
1,551
23,594
Naval Service
    Officers
    Other Ranks
2,337
221
2,116
3,959
364
3,595
4,602
375
4,227
4,767
383
4,384
4,953
408
4,545
Army
    Officers
    Other Ranks
12,911
891
12,020
15,522
804
14,718
15,379
903
14,476
16,963
696
16,267
16,483
1,047
15,436
Royal Air Force
    Officers
    Other Ranks
2,424
278
2,146
2,684
323
2,361
3,526
397
3,129
4,246
427
3,819
4,097
484
3,613

Source: Defence Analytical Services Agency, UK Regular Forces Strengths and Changes at 1 October 2000, TSP 1, 2 November 2000

In 1999-2000 Royal Navy and Royal Marine recruitment reached 99 per cent of target; Army recruitment was at 95 per cent of target; and RAF was at 96 per cent.[46] The Minister told us that this year the Services had had their best recruitment year for 10 years, despite low unemployment, but acknowledged the need to look further ahead.[47] Although the Navy's recruiting figures had improved over the last five years, the Second Sea Lord too was aware that meeting recruitment targets would be more difficult in the medium to long term.[48] Intake figures on their own do not tell the whole story: they need to be viewed in the context of the Services' manning requirements and with the numbers leaving the Services. Figures 1-4 show that there has been a net outflow from the regular forces in the last five years.









Source: Defence Analytical Services Agency, UK Regular Forces Strengths and Changes at 1 January 2001 (Revised), TSP 1, 6 February 2001

The most recent data, for the six months to October 2000, [see also Table 4 below] shows an increase in net outflow against the previous year.

Table 4
Intake against outflow for financial year 2000-2001
(6 months to October 2000)

  
Intake
Outflow
Net Change
All Services
    Officers
    Other ranks
13,426
1,162
12,264
14,728
1,488
13,240
-1,302
-326
-976
Naval Service
    Officers
    Other ranks
12,646
317
2,329
2,889
333
2,556
-243
-16
-227
Army
    Officers
    Other ranks
8,686
569
8,117
9,077
752
8,325
-391
-183
-208
RAF
    Officers
    Other ranks
2,094
276
1,818
2,762
403
2,359
-668
-127
-541

Source: Defence Analytical Services Agency, UK Regular Forces Strengths and Changes at 1 November 2000, TSP 1, 4 December 2000

Assessing the Services individually, the Army disappointingly shows a net outflow for the first half of 2000-01, having improved its performance in the previous few years. The RAF net outflow remains fairly constant. The Navy, while still sustaining a net outflow, has at least continued to show an improvement for the first half of this year. Despite the healthy state of recruitment, it is clear that the manning problem is worsening rather than improving. The Table below demonstrates that this is the case for the trained strength against the trained requirement, as well as for total numbers in the Services.

Table 5

Strengths and Requirements of UK Trained Regular Forces 1998-2000

  
  
Trained Requirement
Trained Strength
Shortfall
Naval Service
April 1998
41,900
40,400
1,600 (3.8%)
  
April 1999
40,900
39,000
1,900 (4.6%)
  
April 2000
39,863
38,877
966 (2.4%)
  
December 2000
39,921
38,604
1,317 (3.3%)
Army
April 1998
105,800
101,000
4,700 (4.4%)
  
April 1999
105,300
99,700
5,600 (5.3%)
  
April 2000
106,396
100,334
6,062 (5.7%)
  
December 2000
106,133
100,442
5,691 (5.4%)
RAF
April 1998
54,500
52,700
1,800 (3.3%)
  
April 1999
53,000
51,800
1,200 (2.7%)
  
April 2000
52,160
51,208
952 (1.8%)
  
December 2000
51,989
50,272
1,717 (3.3%)

Notes:
Figures for 1998 and 1999 are taken from the Ministry of Defence Performance Report 1999/2000, p 23, and are rounded to nearest hundred.
Figures for April and December 2000 are taken from Defence Analytical Service Agency, UK Armed Forces Strengths and Requirements, TSP 3, 9 January 2001.
The Army requirement for 2000 if the post-SDR requirement is included is 108,300.
Army figures include Gurkhas and for 2000 Full Time Reserve Service personnel

27. It takes time for improvements in the net inflow/outflow figures for overall force numbers to filter through to the trained strength and therefore contribute to meeting the trained requirement targets. We discuss below what the Armed Forces are doing and what should be done to stop the trained strength leeching out. However, a steady supply of new recruits will always be necessary and all the more with a disproportionate outflow. Given the negative aspects of the recruitment market, the Armed Forces need to use all means at their disposal to secure sufficient recruits of the right calibre now and for the foreseeable future.

The need for a more radical approach

28. In their recruiting policies, the Armed Forces must steer a difficult course. For practical, moral and political reasons they must aim their recruiting strategies at the widest possible pool of people. But they also need to ensure they are concentrating on areas where the return for investment is good. They must ensure that their marketing techniques fully exploit the range of media and do the utmost to promote the exciting and varied nature of the careers on offer in the Services. Drawing from the widest pool of potential recruits means recruiting more women and people from ethnic minorities. But it should also involve increasing the profile of the Services across society as a whole. The view of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) was that the Services could no longer rely on young people with Service connections and family traditions to provide the bulk of their recruits,[49] and that there was a need to broadcast much more widely what was available in the Services—

    ... the Armed Services have got to go out to the wider community and describe the jobs better ... the marvellous, exciting, stimulating careers which are available in the Armed Services for women and for men.[50]

As MoD witnesses stressed to us, this is particularly important if the Armed Forces want young people to come to them as a career of first choice.[51] Substantial sums are being spent on recruitment advertising: in 1999-2000 the Navy spent £6.7 million, the Army £18.4 million and the RAF £6.0 million.[52]

29. Appealing to the broadest spectrum in society is clearly linked to the visibility and civil/military links issues which we discuss above. In the context of recruitment, it needs to be specifically addressed by refining and developing the recruitment techniques the Services have at their disposal. The Internet is a key tool which the MoD is already exploiting. All three Services have careers websites. The Army launched an on-line recruiting office in May which allows users to have an on-line conversation with a recruiting officer. The RAF careers website reported 1.5 million visits between October 1999 and April 2000. The Royal Navy site received 2,488 officer and 5,710 rating and Royal Marine other ranks requests for careers information in 1999-2000.[53] The MoD tells us that it is too soon to assess how many of these enquiries and applications translate into actual recruits. It is important that research in this area is initiated soon so that these valuable recruitment tools can be further enhanced and refined.

30. There are other measures which could be exploited to a greater extent to draw young people into the Services at crucial times in their lives when they are deciding on their careers. School-leavers are the most obvious target, and the Army has taken the initiative in appealing to those seeking a career at 16 by setting up the Army Foundation College at Harrogate. The College offers 16 to 17 year-olds 23 weeks of military training combined with adventurous training and 14 weeks of vocational education in numeracy, communications and problem-solving. Both the Adjutant General and the Defence Training Review team told us what a success the College has been and the Army Training and Recruiting Agency, which is responsible for the College, says there is no doubt that its establishment has been instrumental in improving the Army's recruitment performance.[54] We recommend that the plans to open a second Army Foundation College should be realised as soon as possible.

31. Another crucial point at which to catch the attention of young people is at university, particularly for officer recruits. Professor Strachan emphasised the very direct way in which the Services can reach university students through the Officer Training Corps, and believed more use could be made of financial incentives to encourage OTC membership, which might then lead on to a career in the Armed Forces.[55] University cadetships, where students intending to join the Armed Forces are assisted with funding while at university, provide one obvious incentive for those going to university to decide in advance on a Service career. More effort could be made in marketing the Armed Forces to the growing numbers of students seeking careers while they are still at university: the Second Sea Lord told us of an initiative last year which involved every university engineering student receiving a mail-shot highlighting the career opportunities available in the Royal Navy. It resulted in a huge increase in applications.[56] The impetus for this was the Royal Navy failing to meet its recruiting targets for engineers for the previous five years.[57] We welcome the Navy's proactive response to a difficult recruitment market and expect to see more of this type of targeted initiative in the future. If the results from a mailshot can be so good, more directed marketing might produce even more impressive results.

32. One of the greatest recruitment incentives the Armed Forces can offer is the excellence of their training, which also offers them a way of increasing their leverage in specific shortage areas. We have already commented that young people today are much less willing to be tied into a 'job for life'. The Armed Forces could make much greater use of the offer of the best skill training available to attract young people, with the knowledge that military training will prepare them for a second career when they leave the Services, provided of course that the Services can ensure that the recruit stays for long enough to give them the return they need on the cost of training. The Director General of the Army Training and Recruiting Agency told us—

    ... what we are doing is completely changing the way that we are doing our marketing so that what we are saying to young people today is, 'Look: there are 143 different trade groups you can get into in the Service context and you will get superb training in excellent facilities. You will get paid and you will also get adventure training and so on to go with that.' That is a superb offer. The problem in the past has been communicating that and we are having a major campaign to do that.[58]

33. Attracting young people to the Armed Forces on the basis of its being excellent preparation for a second, civilian career relies on military training and qualifications being recognised by the civilian sector. The Defence Training Review (which we discuss in more detail below) is looking at the whole issue of how to ensure that Armed Forces personnel obtain qualifications which are marketable in civilian life. We trust that the Review's report (expected in the spring) will take full account of the importance transferable qualifications have as a recruitment incentive, as well as being a key driver for improving retention.

34. However, we have to recognise the dilemma the Armed Forces face—the more marketable they make their personnel, the greater level of 'churn' they risk inducing. There is a ratchet effect—as they make their people better trained and educated, so they must increase their own attractiveness in order to retain them. But this is a virtuous circle. It is clear that 'niche marketing' of the opportunities offered by the Armed Forces is an effective way forward, and we endorse this approach. The Armed Forces have to be able to compete against the commercial sector across the waterfront of pay, training and career satisfaction.


41   Ev p 27, para 2.2 Back

42  Q 381 Back

43  Q 61 Back

44  Q 44 Back

45  Q 44 Back

46  Ministry of Defence Performance Report 1999/2000, Cm 5000, December 2000, para 36 Back

47  Q 713 Back

48  Q 248 Back

49  Q 161 Back

50  Q 157 Back

51  See QQ 376, 420 Back

52  Ministry of Defence Performance Report 1999/2000, Cm 5000, para 147 Back

53  Ev p 31, para 8.5; see also Q 113 Back

54  QQ 84 and 395; Army Training and Recruiting Agency Annual Report 1998/99, p 12 Back

55  Q 34 Back

56  Q 248 Back

57  Naval Training and Recruiting Agency Annual Report and Accounts 1998/99, p 14 Back

58  Q 691 Back


 
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Prepared 23 February 2001