Memorandum from the Institute of Career
The following information has been submitted
by members of the ICG in response to the following questions posted
on the ICG website:
Are young people interested
in careers in the Armed Forces?
Is interest increasing or decreasing?
Do you have any evidence (including
case studies and anecdotes) that would assist the inquiry in their
IN SW ENGLAND
Post 16 school leavers
Last year 2007we had five or six students
from year 10 taking part in Army residential courses as part of
work experience. This was similar to the previous year 2006. This
year we have two applicants for work experience with the RNAS
and one for the Army. From last year two are still actively pursuing
army careers and one is considering it. In 2006 three students
applied to join up1or two were Students and their families
are increasingly put off by the Iraq war, as they perceive there
to be more danger/risk.
Another hurdle is the number of students listed
with asthma and therefore unable to apply to the armed services
due to ill health.
Post 18 school leavers
Slightly more interest this year in university
sponsorships from the Armed Services particularly for medicine/nursing
professionstwo students at present intending to apply although
competition is fierce.
A Year 13 student passed the selection interview
for the RAF this year but pulled out after the commitment time
increased from 12 to 18 years.
This increase may well be due to high cost of
university qualifications and when students understand the long
term commitment and what the package entails they may not prove
A GROUP OF
There is a general consensus that, firstly the
Armed Forces are less popular than they were. They think that
this stems generally from the "macho" image, which is
presented, especially from the Army, but also from the fact that
schools promote them less because of a generally moral perspective
about conflicts like Iraq or Afghanistan.
In one sense the provision of information is
impartial because they are still invited to Careers Conventions
etc but the subjective and indirect message is much more moralistic,
not necessarily from Careers Advisers but from Teachers and Parents.
They are considerably more influential with the average plus because
of the role that Connexions have been asked to play with emphasis
on the hardest to help. It means that the emphasis currently is
on staying in education to the age of 18 or beyond for average
and above average clients. All employers with traditional Apprenticeship
approaches to employment and training are missing out on this
not just the Armed Forces.
I have been a careers adviser in education for
seven years in south Wales and it is my impression that interest
in the armed forces has remained pretty steadyand has perhaps
increased slightly in recent years. Some young people express
an interest in year 10/11 but if they stay on to do A levels,
the interest tends to wane.
Many young people enter the forces because they
want to be trained in a trade such as electrical work or motor
mechanics and there are very few vacancies locally. Had they been
able to find an apprenticeship, they would not have applied.
From a Scottish Perspective there are
may be two key areas to consider.
1. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought
it home to young people just how dangerous work in the armed services
really can be.
2. In a Scottish level the decision to merge
the infantry regiments in to one Regiment of Scotland has fundamentally
weakened young people's connection to their local infantry regiment.
Reducing for example the Black Watch with all of its history to
the 3rd/ 4th/ 5th Royal regiment of Scotland (Black Watch) has
taken away the romance, the local connections and disconnected
I interviewed a young Canadian man three or
four years ago who had come to Scotland to join the Black Watch
as his father and grandfather had all enlisted in this regiment
in years gone by. I doubt if this young man from the Commonwealth
would leave Ontario and his folks to join the 3rd/ 4th Battalion
of the Royal Regiment of Scotland!
The British Army as has the German army has
always encouraged young people to fight alongside their friends
and local people. US army sources have always said this is strength
of the British Army and it is something that the US army has always
envied without being able to reproduce.
If the Army is able to reconnect with young
people in Scotland by encouraging and celebrating attachment to
local regiments it may see a pick up in recruitment.
I can confidently say that young people are
more interested in armed forces as career.
Hence, the interest is highly increasing especially
in the developed countries. You see some African youths joining
armed forces without any body giving any courage or advise.
In response to your query, I work in a school
in a disadvantaged area of xxxxxxxxxx. I find a fair bit of interest
in joining the Army with pupils I interview. Many have family
tradition as a motive as they have parents or other relatives
who have served, or are serving, in the Army. Many view the Army
as an option to break the lack of other opportunities open to
them due to expectations of poor academic qualifications. There
is also an interest due to the Operation Youth Advantage scheme
run in conjunction with the community police based in the school.
This involves taking pupils who have or may be at risk of criminal
activity for a week's Army training course to improve their attitude,
confidence, team working skills etc. Many pupils I interview in
relation to Army careers have been involved in this initiative
and enjoyed the experience. The school also encourages participation
in Army days and the Army Careers are always in attendance at
parent information evenings/careers events in school.
The main drawback for some applying directly
to the Army can be criminality issues and they are encouraged
to apply after completing courses such as Army Preparation
under the Get Ready for Work training schemes for unemployed
young people. Quite often young people who have participated on
these programmes are inspired to join various branches of the
Armed Services after completion.
I feel therefore that interest in Army careers
is about the same despite awareness of current conflicts such
as Afghanistan and Iraq and the fact that a young ex-pupil of
the school was recently killed in Iraq.
In my experience as a school-based adviser the
armed forces has increased in popularity recently. The interest
seems to across the ability range with more able students favouring
the RAF. The interest is mainly coming from boys although some
girls are also showing an interest.
The reasons for the increase in interest are
difficult to say. Students usually give personal reasons, eg father/brother
in the forces etc. I think that the TV advertising has had some
impact and the higher profile of the forces in the Media due to
the Iraq/Afghan conflicts. Having said this I have also come across
clients who have dropped out of the Army recently. One client
left because he felt unsuited to Army life. Another client was
discharged after an incident involving drug use.
I think that the Armed forces are accepting
clients who are not ready to cope with the life style. The client
who was discharged for drug use had serious behavioural problems
at school and had spent most of year 11 in special provision for
students with emotional and behavioural problems.
Q 1. "Are YPs interested in the Armed
Yes. However most Young people (mainly Lads)
want the Army and never think of the other services. Girls often
take up activities while at school with the Army but it never
seems to develop in to a career choice when leaving. Equally the
Army is far more proactive by offering activity days for schools,
Work experience places and getting involved in PSE such as mock
interviews etc. The Army update their careers information each
year and staff from the Army Careers regularly give updates to
Connexions staff on what is happening. Simply they are more willing,
more proactive and visionary than the other Armed Services. I
have contacted both the Air Force and the Navy and both where
unable to offer placements. Last year for the first time the Navy
contacted me to ask if they could help in PSE by doing mock interviews
for those YPs interested in the Armed Forces. However they offered
it too late in the year and there was no time in the timetable.
Q 2. "Is interest increasing or decreasing"?
About the same numbers.
Q 3. "Do you have any evidence"?
See question one.
Also I have grave concerns that the Army take
YPs who should not be there and the Army recruitment techniques
are questionable. Example there was as recently as 18 months to
two years ago I had a YP who was Statemented for having specific
Special Needs. The lad should in my opinion never have been taken
on. He had lost two jobs because he was unable to cope with the
work but the Army recruited him and he came to see me, proud in
his uniform to tell me he was going to Iraq.
I had another lad last year did the same. He
was not LDD but he was naive, immature in character. He too was
going off to Iraq.
Neither of these lads should have been allowed
to join and there should be a limit on taking YPs with limited
ability. Some sort of test indicating ability to cope and understand
what is expected of them. After all there are enough other Psychometric
Just a quick few thoughts. I work in a military
school in xxxxxxxx and there is certainly a healthy interest in
the Armed Forces (although I do appreciate these are children
of current serving Army Personnel).
Most students appear to have a preference for
the RAF. The RAF say they have no recruiting issues at all. Therefore
most of our students are not successful with an RAF application.
They are visiting our school next month and will be carrying out
selection tests for approximately 10 students (this is not for
Officer training). It will be interesting to see if any of them
Reasons students are choosing RAF over Army
is the perceived/real benefits such as better pay, better accommodation,
better status, etc (even their parents are encouraging RAF rather
than Army applications). Also the prospect of actually being on
a front line at the age of 18-19 is not something young people
of today necessarily are in tune with.
The job market is buoyant in the UK and I would
suggest that young people have more opportunities to take qualifications
and receive higher levels of support by agencies like Connexions
etc which enable them to make more informed decisions.
Many of the Army personnel who I work alongside
come from geographical areas where there has, in the past, had
limited work opportunities, and many parent have left school with
few, if any qualificationswhich is not the case in 2008.
Perhaps the quality of careers guidance is also
opening opportunities to young people who in the past thought
they had little option to join the Forces.
Colleges are also offering a range of courses
for students who have not enjoyed school and at varying Levels
so further education is not just an opportunity for "clever"
Some of our students fail application due to
lack of fitness, which is a sign of the times it seems.
Also the Army Foundation College limits access
to those under the age of 17 (and a few months I think). This
means students who want to stay on for a year in school are then
too old to apply to the Army Foundation College at Harrogate...
a bit shortsighted in my personal view.
I have the following feedback on Armed Forces
recruitment. I was recently told by a Year 11 student who wants
to apply to the RAF that the RAF Careers Office nearby had told
her she should not apply for a BTEC National in Public Services
at level 3, but to apply for A levels instead. This surprised
me, as it seems contradictory to the government's agenda and to
Aim Higher guidelines?
I work in a busy FE college and can confirm
that for the last seven years I have never been asked by anyone
about joining the Army, however I have had a handful of enquiries
about becoming a pilot with the RAF. This is despite the fact
that the Army visit with information and DVDs etc which are available
in our Learning Resources Centre.
Just for interest I personally have two nephews
who are soldiers (on different sides of the family) both in their
mid 20's and my own son did contemplate joining as an officer
when he was 25 but after one interview did not pursue the application.
I'm now in management and so see far fewer clients
than in previous years.
Not what it was when I entered the profession
in 1979. The Falklands gave the public a reality check about the
potential challenges of such employmenta mother actually
said to me at that time when seeing me with a younger child that
she "didn't encourage her (older) son to join the Royal Navy
only to have him go and get killed" (He didn't in fact get
sent to the Falklands).
Until then, service life had been very attractive
to many young people and their parents from across the ability
range. I don't think numbers have recovered since then.
Current hostilities are on the news and in the
newspapers every day. The result is that a lot of parents are
refusing consent for the under 18s. It is not helped by the fact
that it is clear that the kitting out of staff is considered sub-standard
by many service personnel and recent coroners' enquiries have
confirmed and publicised this fact.
As the 14-16 co-ordinator at an FE college I
know that we have considerable interest by students in years 9,
10, and 11 on the Uniformed Public Services course in joining
the Army. The college offer 15 places a year for Public Services
at Key Stage 4 and we have no problem recruiting to the programme.
The level of interest in HM Armed forces of
my current Y11 cohort is very much the same as in previous years,
and that is low, but evidence indicates much of this interest
evaporates during 6th form (I have almost no students who do not
stay on for further education of some sort).
Over the last few years I have had more girls
showing interest in, applying to and being accepted for Welbeck
The level of interest in the Armed Forces in
my 6th forms has stayed much the same as ever. However when interviewed
many of them seem oblivious to the UK's commitment to Afghanistan
and Iraq and seem very naive about the role of armed troops; most
of my 6th form students progress to Higher Education so I cannot
comment on their subsequent interest.
The Defence Committee might extend their enquiries
to Higher Education to elicit attitudes there?
Yes, young people are still interested in the
armed forces. The more able are often looking for the opportunities
for careers development. The less academic want good training
eg construction and engineering or housing. Girls are more likely
to see it as some thing for them once they have got past the influence
of half their peers wanting to do beauty and hairdressing!
I believe that interest in the armed forces
is decreasing. I feel that fewer young people are asking about
military careers. This is mainly due to the wars in the Middle
East and negative media coverage of military personnel in the
media. Parents are defiantly less keen on their children joining
the military especially the 16-17 year olds.
A 16-year-old girl doing catering at FE College.
Wants to join army as chefher mother thinks she is perfectly
suited to army life and would thrive. But her parents are not
keen for her to join up. They wanted her to join the TA, as this
was part time and therefore less risky. (within last three months)
Last month 18 year old on a level 3 Engineering
course at college. Said he had considered it but felt that the
services took the wrong sort of people. He wanted to work with
people he could trust.
A 19-year-old young man "D" came in
wanting careers advice after having left the Navy. He had witnessed
a shipmate throw/push a girlfriend (a fellow crew member) through
a window. He felt that this had not been taken seriously by the
Navy the crewmember in question only got a light punishment. D
felt he should have been discharged or imprisoned. D did not want
to work for an organisation that condoned this type of behaviour.
(This was a year or two ago)
The Army experience activities are good at helping
young people decide if the Army is for them although there are
issues about providing chaperones for girls. Schools and colleges
are being asked to provide them if they send any girls on these
At a recent Careers Evening held in the xxxxxxxxxxxx
area I was surprised to see how interested young people were in
the Armed Forces stand. They had the longest queue over the whole
The only way that I can judge is to say that
I have observed a significant decrease in the numbers coming forward
for interviews with the RAF and Army Services Liaison staff in
the last six years-decreasing from six to eight enquiries each
term to none at all, or the occasional one.
I can't personally see why this might be, but
suspect that when the economy is buoyant and there are other jobs,
people may opt for these instead. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan
and the reporting of casualties, news stories about bullying,
unexplained deaths etc probably don't help.
I have no case study to offer but I have seen
a number of Y11 leavers at school who are interested in joining
the armed forces, some immediately after Y11 and others after
studying the Public Services Course at college. The majority seem
to be thinking about the Army.
After checking that their decision is well researched
and thought out, I usually advise them to speak to the Army Careers
Officer based locally before making a final decision.
Many are attracted by the possibility of learning
a trade especially where there are limited opportunities locally.
Others are attracted by the possibility of a pension from the
armed forces, while others simply want to join the fighting arm
of the Army.
In my opinion young people are as interested
as ever in joining the forces. Many still see it as a good career
and in an economic black spot like xxxxxxxxxx one of the best
routes into employment.
However of the record there seems to be some
concern about armed forces representatives coming into careers
centres to publicise their wares. As a careers adviser of many
years standing I begin to despair! ! Perhaps if the Government
decided that careers advisers have a lead role in encouraging
young people to consider the forces this will be hit on the head
I have noticed a reduction in young people asking
about careers in the armed forces. One young man told me he has
been put off applying as he has now realised that he might actually
have to go to war!! The realities of the services have been in
the news much more recently. I feel in the past a number of my
clients didn't fully understand what being in the forces really
meant and they are now making a more informed choice albeit from
what they see on the TV.
19 March 2008