Defence Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 185

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Defence Committee

on Tuesday 16 April 2013

Members present:

Mr James Arbuthnot (Chair)

Mr Julian Brazier

Mr Jeffrey M. Donaldson

Mr Dai Havard

Mr Adam Holloway

Mrs Madeleine Moon

Penny Mordaunt

Sandra Osborne

Sir Bob Russell


Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Rear Admiral Simon Williams, Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Personnel and Training), Ministry of Defence, and Colonel Carolyn Johnstone, Assistant Head, Holding to Account, Training, Education, Skills, Recruiting and Resettlement, Ministry of Defence, gave evidence.

Q1 Chair: Welcome to the second evidence session this afternoon. This one is about the education of Service personnel. Admiral, would you like to introduce yourself and Colonel Johnstone, even though we have met her on several occasions?

Rear Admiral Williams: I am sure you have. I am Admiral Simon Williams. I am responsible for personnel and training policy in the Ministry of Defence. I have been in post since September last year. I took the post after having commanded, in my previous job, initial naval training across both officers and ratings academies in the Navy. I also commanded the initial of the Navy’s leadership academies. Previous to that, I was a director of personnel strategy. Those two jobs led to my selection for this post.

Colonel Carolyn Johnstone is a career education specialist, and is the person I rely on for deep, specialist education advice. I am not allowed to say she is my education ninja, because she does not like it.

Q2 Chair: Thank you. I understand that you have been heavily involved in the organisation of the funeral tomorrow, so we are grateful to you for coming to give us evidence at a very busy time.

Ofsted recommended that literacy and numeracy support should be provided from the beginning of recruits’ and trainees’ programmes. What have you done to address that recommendation?

Rear Admiral Williams: We have a plan to put literacy and numeracy skills in context using the Functional Skills programme. We have found that that is both the right approach for Service people, and it seems to work best with the recruits that come into the Naval Service.

Colonel Johnstone: This is mainly a concern for the Army, which tends to take in people at lower levels of achievement in literacy and numeracy. The previous training delivery model at the infantry training centre at Catterick was that when the recruits completed their training, they got a package of literacy at the end of their training. With the introduction of functional skills, as the Admiral said, it is now peppered through the course, and the literacy and numeracy is delivered in context. That helps. The policy is that all our trainees will be at entry level 3 before they start phase 2 training.

Q3 Chair: So it is essential to allow them to get the best out of the later stages of their training?

Colonel Johnstone: Indeed. Phase 2 training, which is where they do their specialist and trade-related training, tends to be of a more technical nature in some cases. There would be more written material for them to absorb, and therefore we assess-it is an internal assessment-that entry level 3 is required for them to participate fully and get the benefit from that military training.

Q4 Chair: Would you achieve the same thing by raising the basic entry level requirements?

Colonel Johnstone: Individuals could come in with higher levels. Our policy then is that the Services should aim to improve everybody’s level of literacy and numeracy by one level, on the national levels, during their training, to at least entry level 3 before they go into phase 2 training.

Q5 Chair: Have you considered raising the basic entry level?

Colonel Johnstone: It is an issue that comes along reasonably often, I think. It is an old chestnut that is often revisited. The armed forces recruit in competition with the other employers in the marketplace. An individual who comes to be selected is put through a number of assessments, and literacy and numeracy achievement would be just one of those. We also measure their attitude, their physical fitness, their commitment to joining the Army, Navy or Air Force, and their trainability. We take the best that we can to fill the numbers that we need, so the actual levels of achievement will go up and down depending on who is coming to us from the marketplace.

Q6 Mrs Moon: Given the increased legal and educational responsibilities placed on the MOD in recruiting what are technically still children-16 and 17-year-olds-what is the continued cost-benefit analysis involved in pursuing that course of action? Is it still worth recruiting children as young as 16?

Colonel Johnstone: Raising the participation age-the school leaving age remains at 16. The new obligations under raising the participation age oblige the individual who does not have a full level 3 qualification, which is broadly A-levels, to remain in some form of education or training for that time when they are 16 and 17. The Services recognise that.

The three ways in which an individual can meet that duty are either to stay in full-time education at a school or college, to undertake an apprenticeship, or, if they go into full-time employment, to take structured training leading towards qualification on a part-time basis. All those who would have a duty to participate will be enrolled on an apprenticeship scheme when they come into the armed forces, unless their training is leading to a higher level qualification-some may already be on degrees associated with their military training, depending on specialism. However, the majority of those who would previously have been considered to be coming in with lower levels of achievement would be enrolled on an apprenticeship. We are not trying to compete with or replace a college; raising the participation age is as an employer providing access to that continued learning.

As for the costing of that, we have done some work on the actual costs, but not necessarily on the value for money and the cost-benefit. There are some indications, and on an ad hoc basis people will tell you that those who are recruited at 16 and 17 stay in longer, get promoted quicker and are better quality soldiers, sailors and airmen, in some cases. So that investment early on may be giving us a benefit later-we have not done that analysis fully.

Q7 Mrs Moon: You have not done that analysis?

Colonel Johnstone: Not fully, no.

Q8 Sir Bob Russell: How frequently do you feel that Ofsted should be inspecting armed forces initial training establishments, and in particular the substance, quality and suitability of the curriculum on offer? I ask that particularly in relation to apprenticeships.

Rear Admiral Williams: In terms of the quality of the establishments, if an Ofsted inspection detects something that is below a good standard, at the moment our policy is that they would reinspect within a year.

Q9 Sir Bob Russell: So how frequently are they inspecting at the moment, because I have been told that they have done only three inspections since 2009, which suggests just one inspection a year across the whole country?

Rear Admiral Williams: There are many more than that. Carolyn?

Colonel Johnstone: We have two separate types of inspection from Ofsted. The armed forces commission Ofsted to do inspections of our welfare and duty of care, and those inspections also look at the quality of teaching and learning. We pay for those inspections and usually between 10 and 12 of our initial training establishments are inspected on that scheme on an annual basis.

With the apprenticeships, Ofsted comes and inspects armed forces apprenticeship schemes in the same way that they would inspect any other SFA-funded educational provision. It is under Ofsted’s statutory framework and it is for Ofsted to decide how often it comes.

Q10 Sir Bob Russell: So how many establishments are only rated as "satisfactory" at the moment?

Colonel Johnstone: For the-

Q11 Sir Bob Russell: From Ofsted’s perspective.

Colonel Johnstone: For the statutory ones, I don’t know.

Q12 Sir Bob Russell: I am going for the initial training establishments, because my next question was going to be this: how are you going to ensure that all initial training establishments are rated as being at least "good" by Ofsted inspectors? However, before I got to that, I was going to ask how many of them were rated only "satisfactory". I do not mind in which order the questions are answered.

Colonel Johnstone: I will just refer to my notes.

Rear Admiral Williams: While Carolyn is looking for the notes and the detail, in terms of policy, we are looking at what Ofsted looks at as well as at the broader quality of our training. When Ofsted comes and inspects a military establishment, clearly the reports are published and they are given not only to that military establishment, but to every other military establishment.

In terms of best practice, we do peer group sharing of information as to when Ofsted has noticed something as being "good", and we have now moved into the "outstanding" bracket for some of our establishments. The last Ofsted report had, out of 10 or 11, two "outstanding" assessments: one was a basic training establishment; and one was an air crew training establishment.

Where we get those "outstanding" ratings, we look and analyse and improve right the way across the board, so we are trying not to lose those that are already perhaps at the "good" level; we are trying to spread best practice right the way through the training community and we take the whole process seriously. So it is informed by Ofsted, but not necessarily driven by Ofsted.

Q13 Sir Bob Russell: So how long do you anticipate that it will take for all establishments to achieve the "good" standard?

Rear Admiral Williams: We are making very good progress. I say "very good progress"-we are patting ourselves on the back and looking at last year’s assessment, which I think had only two establishments below the "good" level and I think that in the previous year, there were six.

Colonel Johnstone: I have finally found the bits of paper. In the 2011-12 round, and these are for the ones that we commission, there were two "outstanding" grades and 60% were "good" or better. So, six of the 10 were "good" or better. Obviously, we are already well through the 2012-13 cycle and although the information will not be published until the summer when Ofsted does its annual report on the armed forces, with the ones that have been done already we know that we have improved on them.

Q14 Sir Bob Russell: So the graph is going up?

Colonel Johnstone: We are definitely going in the right direction and we have good momentum.

Q15 Sir Bob Russell: My last question is this: just out of interest, with the Ofsted inspectors is there a military dimension, background and knowledge among the inspectors?

Colonel Johnstone: Not necessarily. My team are Ofsted’s liaison point within the MOD, and Ofsted always tries to provide inspectors who understand the sector and the provision that is being inspected. There is a small team of people who have been to previous defence establishments, but I do not think that any of them have specific prior military experience necessarily.

Q16 Sir Bob Russell: Is that a plus or a minus, if your establishment is being inspected by people who have not served in uniform at some point themselves?

Colonel Johnstone: We value Ofsted’s independence. It is particularly helpful that we get a number of inspectors who through their work with Ofsted have been involved with the forces previously. That means that every time they come round we do not have to start from the very beginning and introduce our training structure and so on. Once they have done one training establishment in defence they will be able to take that knowledge across.

Q17 Mrs Moon: Has an assessment of your numeracy and literacy support been carried out to ensure that it is meeting those characteristics set by Ofsted as the best providers? How are you ensuring that what you are providing in terms of literacy and numeracy support is of the best?

Colonel Johnstone: We did the armed forces basic skills longitudinal study and that recently reported. I think we provided that for the Committee. That highlighted that a lot of what we do is best practice in literacy and numeracy, and our outcomes are very positive. There is a key investment. People in the armed forces who need support with literacy and numeracy will get that from various sources. For some it will be part of their apprenticeship through functional skills; for others it will be something that they choose to do, although we do have a requirement that they reach levels 1 and 2 by certain points in their career linked to their promotion.

They will be supported, either through the contractor that is delivering one of the other courses, or there may be military officers, such as people from my own branch of educational and training services, who are deployed through the armed forces, working directly with units. They are trained to support the literacy and numeracy needs of their learners. We also have some civil servants who are literacy and numeracy tutors, working in learning centres through the armed forces. There is also peer support: members of the armed forces can volunteer to be literacy and numeracy mentors.

It is a matter of mixing all that together in a blend, so that the individual, regardless of whether they are in a training establishment, a workplace or are deployed in Afghanistan or anywhere else, is able to access that support for literacy and numeracy, including electronic learning and so on.

Q18 Mrs Moon: Have you thought of having your recruits aim to achieve GCSE in maths and English? Why do you not pursue that as your goal-where they go away with a clear achievement?

Rear Admiral Williams: Many of those people who do not hit the GCSE bar are perhaps those who do not fit with our national education system. We are not a specialist educational organisation. Most of those who have come through the state system and have not got a GCSE may need a different approach. That is where the functional skills are showing in a rather practical sense. Some of those individuals who just don’t seem to get the standard state provision or the standard academic approach are able to develop their numeracy and literacy skills when taught and trained in a slightly different way. Our experience is certainly that is what is happening. In the Army in particular, we have a substantial number of people who haven’t gained the traction in the standard state system and haven’t developed a wish or an obvious ability to make the GCSE standard. Our approach is to take those functional standards and try to work it a different way.

Q19 Mrs Moon: Is there an opportunity to take the exams if they have the capability?

Rear Admiral Williams: Absolutely so, and right the way through all the Armed Services there are opportunities to take your education across. I would not say it was a very high number-I am not sure whether we gather the statistics-but the opportunity is there, whether you are on a deployed ship or whether you are in Afghanistan, depending on the operational situation. That can impact, if I am honest, on your ability to sit down and start getting through your English GCSE. But we make provision on board ship, if you have the expertise on board in terms of subject matter, so English, for example, can generally be taught in most ships and units deployed. We run courses and people do take them on. In a ship I deployed with, I think we had 10 people out of 200 who got an English GCSE in a six-month deployment. So the opportunities are there.

Q20 Mrs Moon: I quite honestly see the military as one of the best examples of a through-life educational establishment. If ever there was one, it is the British armed forces. So to say that you are not an education establishment, I think that you misrepresent yourselves and what you do.

Rear Admiral Williams: Thank you.

Q21 Chair: This is a question about improving the quality of the teaching and training that you provide. Ofsted said: "Most of the establishments inspected last year did not have an effective system for improving the quality of training through structured instructor observations to help them to improve." What are you doing about that?

Rear Admiral Williams: A number of things. We are encouraging coaching and mentoring networks within training establishments. So in the training establishments that I commanded, for example, in both leadership skills and the coaching skills themselves, we had one sphere of training, but also in the training and building on the DTTT-the Defence Train The Trainer-course, mentoring a senior teacher, looking in from the outside and commenting on and improving performance. We also looked pretty carefully at the responses from cadets and students going through particular courses to see, if you are teaching a similar sort of area, which teachers or individuals who are teaching were not as successful as others, and that sort of collegiate coaching-type approach seemed to be delivering dividends, as far as I could see, in a very promising way.

The Army has looked at it in a slightly more structured way, and I think the Army has now got a plan to have a three-tier instructor or teacher network with those who have done the DTTT course and two higher qualifications-if you want to talk about that, Carolyn.

Colonel Johnstone: Indeed; the Army is rolling out something over the next 12 months or so called the Army instructor capability. As well as the instructor qualification that people will have when they go into teach in training establishments, there will be a higher level of qualification, the Army instructor supervisor, and one of their specific roles will be to monitor and improve classroom level instruction. Above that, I think that it is going to be the Army instruction leader, who will be managing the whole instructor output and linking those instructor performance standards to the delivery of the quality education.

But we have also got an eye to what is happening in civilian life, and Lord Lingfield’s report last year has resulted in different approaches perhaps to the professionalisation of teaching in the learning and skills sector. We are close alongside the Learning and Skills Improvement Service; it produces perhaps new qualifications for teachers in further education. We expect those to come out in the summer, and the military will almost certainly try to mirror those developments in our own systems.

Q22 Chair: So when Ofsted said, "Most establishments…did not have an effective system for improving the quality of training", were they wrong, or were they right and you are doing something about it?

Colonel Johnstone: I think they were right, and they put this in their annual report on what they had seen in armed forces education last year. It had also been picked up possibly because the Army was considering developing this new approach to instructors as something that our own internal inspections and audit had shown as an area for improvement, so we had asked Ofsted to do an additional piece of work for us that they did between January and April, which was to come and look specifically at the development of instructors after their initial defence training course, and they have come back to us with some proposals on how we can improve it. Our own internal process agreed with what Ofsted had said, so we were fortunate enough to be able to use Ofsted again to map out a way forward.

Q23 Chair: Admiral Williams, may I confirm something that you just said? I think you said that while our forces are on deployment on operational duties they can still complete some forms of literacy and numeracy training, even overseas. Is that right?

Rear Admiral Williams: That is correct.

Q24 Mr Brazier: I would like to ask about extended learning credits, which seem to be a rather interesting initiative, Admiral. Because we are running out of time, let me give you several questions together: what type of qualifications do they typically support-

Chair: No, stop there. One question at a time.

Rear Admiral Williams: Educational academic professional vocational things, which, importantly, lead to a qualification at level three or above is the target for the ELC.

Q25 Mr Brazier: And how do you communicate information about them?

Rear Admiral Williams: They are widely advertised internally; in every unit that you visit, you should see posters. Equally, it is on the intranet, and that is where we would find increasing numbers, of our new people, particularly, looking for the information. Those who are interested in pushing ahead for an enhanced learning credit or getting accreditation for higher level education would look there, and every unit has people with education responsibilities if they are not big enough to have an education specialist officer. Part of the roles and responsibilities of that individual is to proselytise such things.

Colonel Johnstone: The other thing is that the enhanced learning credit scheme is one that you have to register for and commit to. Everybody, during their initial training, is given a presentation, told that these things exist and invited to complete a form that allows them to register for the scheme. So, for the enhanced level credits, right up front everybody gets the message.

Q26 Mr Brazier: I am an enthusiast for this and I endorse my colleague Madeleine Moon’s comment earlier about you as a learning organisation, but we were quite surprised to hear that the participation in standard learning credits-I do not have the figures here for the enhanced ones-has fallen from nearly 12% in 2007-08 to around 8% in 2011-12. Clearly both years were very busy with operations and so on, but, given that the pace had already slightly fallen by that late period, to find a one-third fall in participation seems rather surprising. Is there any explanation for that?

Rear Admiral Williams: We have also noticed that and we are looking into why that might be. The initial feedback-it is not fully worked through; this is initial responses from the training commands-is that it might be as a result of the higher profile of the apprenticeship scheme and the fact that all of those coming in feel that they are on a course or getting qualifications and moving along a line that they can recognise. That might be why we are not feeling the need to focus on and take the opportunities of the SLCs. That is possible.

Operational commitments might be part of it. That drop would largely seem to be in the junior ranks. So, being in the junior ranks would lead us to think-

Q27 Mr Brazier: May we have some figures on the apprenticeship side? That would be quite an interesting explanation.

Colonel Johnstone: I believe that they are in the memorandum. The apprenticeship completions, which were around 7,000 in 2007-08, had gone up to 12,000 by 2010-11, so it may well be the answer, particularly if it is at the junior ranks, as they would be involved in the apprenticeships.

Q28 Mr Brazier: Are learning credits and apprenticeships-let’s ask about both-likely to be squeezed in the next round of spending reductions?

Rear Admiral Williams: That is a really difficult question. Every last bit of the armed forces is subject to scrutiny of where we are at the moment in terms of funding, and we in the education area will not be immune to any of that. That is counterpoised by the very clear advantage we get by the investment we make in our people. That is recognised very well and very clearly. It is recognised today and it is recognised in our new employment model, which we are developing at the moment. One aspect of that is to ensure that we get parts of that that have some of these credits embedded within them. In terms of policy and where we are in our thinking, the educational side is absolutely front and centre, and crucial, but I could not sit here today and say that it is in any way protected.

Q29 Mr Brazier: Thank you, Admiral. May I move us on to higher education? Is this seen as a core part of career development in Future Force 2020?

Rear Admiral Williams: A lot of thought is going into higher education at the moment-where it sits and whether you need formally to stratify a rise within an officers career development programme, starting with a bachelor degree and moving through a masters. It is certainly true to say today that the Services offer foundation degrees for the basic officer training. There are other foundation degrees offered for warrant officer aircrew, for example, and I suspect there are some others. So there is a foundation degree with a route to full honours, funded and paid for, for those who wish to take it.

There is a lot of debate at the moment within the Armed Services about whether one ought to go for an all-graduate entry for one’s officers. I would say that where we are at the moment, we are a little bit nervous about going quite that far, for worry that you would miss one or two people who are just not academically focused but who are very good potential officers. So there is a lot of debate at the moment. If you look at the through-career development of officers-if you look at the advanced command and staff course, for example, where a masters degree is on offer, or the Royal College of Defence studies, where similarly one is able to take such a qualification-the opportunities are certainly there, and each Service has its own focus.

Q30 Mr Brazier: May I ask two questions following directly from that? First, you specifically mention the Royal College of Defence Studies and the Cranfield availability of degrees. One of the often-quoted points about Petraeus and the young Turks around him was that all of them, I think without exception, had done a master’s degree in war studies through an institution not controlled or funded by the Pentagon. Are we going to continue with all the money that goes into war studies being through one or two large contracts and effectively under the MOD’s control, or is that being looked at all?

Rear Admiral Williams: It most certainly is being looked at. I have a remit from the last defence training board to look at our higher command and staff course, our Royal College of Defence Studies course and the higher education aspects of both of those. One might look at the RCDS and say, "Is that a sort of pass/fail for senior individuals?" If it is, we might look again at the educational qualifications inherent within it or the potential educational aspects within it. We are certainly looking at options beyond that controlled by the MOD, but as we strive to get the best bang for the buck in an educational sense, that is quite a difficult thing to do. In terms of economies of scale, if we go through our central providers we get a better deal, and therefore I can roll out education to a wider group of people.

Q31 Mr Brazier: Could I suggest to you that if you compare it with the American model, the Americans clearly have a lot more money than we do but if you look at it on a per 100 officer model rather than in aggregate, where the Americans save a great deal of money is by having a lower proportion going through them? The fact that we have chosen to go for mass, low-cost contracts put with just one or two providers rather than having a smaller number of people going through a greater number of slightly more expensive courses-one wonders, given that we have the Levene commitment now to have less turnover among senior ranks so we are going to have fewer people being promoted, whether there is a case for going more for quality rather than quantity.

Rear Admiral Williams: I think there is certainly a case, but it is actively part of the area that we are looking at.

Q32 Mr Brazier: Good. One last question, Chair, if I may, going back for a moment to first degrees. Reserve forces have not been mentioned yet. Forgive me taking an Army example, but I do not have a parallel naval one. If you are an army reserve officer in Australia, for example in the Royal Australian Engineers, and you are taking a degree in engineering, your phase 2 training will count for several credits towards your degree. What work is going forwards at the moment on providing what should in principle be a free inducement, from the MOD’s point of view, to attract TA officers by getting recognition for the qualifications that they are taking within the civilian degree sector?

Rear Admiral Williams: I would certainly say that as part of FR20-Future Reserves 2020-we are looking at exactly what we can accredit and how a future reservist career can be more closely aligned with a regular Service career, because our aim and our wish is for these individuals to be interchangeable. The principle of being able to shape a course, whether regular or reserve, towards giving an accreditation is in our policy-we say that we will do it, and that we will pay slightly more for the course to ensure that it leads to a civilian qualification. That is there already. I am not sure that we have anything specific on engineers-

Q33 Mr Brazier: That was just an example. But you are looking at getting recognition for qualifications, including degree courses?

Rear Admiral Williams: We are looking at every bit of accreditation as part of the whole FR20 piece. There is a massive amount of work going on there, as you might imagine, and some of it will follow on the initial work on how we are going to make the thing work. But the aim is, absolutely, to align regular and reserve; the aim is to ensure that in every bit of training that we do in the Ministry of Defence, we look for accreditation where we can. That aligns not only with FR20, but in this new employment model, which sort of had its genesis in the regulars but will actually move, probably in the next five years if I am honest, to talking about the same sort of activity elsewhere. Certainly in the area that I work, I am working increasingly with considering that reserve component, because we absolutely must.

Q34 Mrs Moon: May I take you back to your statement about not necessarily seeing a university education as a prerequisite for entering officer training? Have you done any research into how many senior officers entered with a university qualification, as opposed to a non-university qualification, but still managed to rise through the ranks successfully? To claim interest in this question, I happen to know that the student who passed out from Sandhurst recently with the top sword award, or whatever, was a Welsh student without a university degree who had already successfully passed out from Cranwell, but because of the cuts had recycled himself through.

Rear Admiral Williams: I am not sure that the research or work that we have done stands up in the way of academic rigour, but certainly all three Services have looked quite carefully at their top cohort and looked at where they have come from. That is informing their thoughts as to whether they need a degree-level qualification for coming in-for example, the Army feel that at the moment. That example you have just quoted is one of the things that they focus on, and we have had very many very successful senior officers-actually, very clever, academically gifted senior officers-who did not necessarily have a degree when they entered the Service. There is an issue there for me in a broader educational sense, because I would give you a personal view that I think that some people are ready at the age of 18 to take a degree, but some people are not and they get traction later on. The delight for me in the Services is that there is an opportunity. It is not easy, because you are doing a proper job at the same time, and to give yourself the time and to drive yourself hard enough to ensure that you give your academic studies enough focus is a difficult thing to do, but the opportunities are there.

Q35 Mrs Moon: That is the through-life education bit.

Rear Admiral Williams: It is through-life education.

Colonel Johnstone: Can I follow up on that one? We have to be careful of what we look at in the current cohort of senior officers and what they might have done when they were of university age, because of the increase in and expansion of higher education. Probably only 15% of the population would have gone to university straight from school at the time that our current board members joined the Army, Navy or Air Force. The Army did some analysis of the actual work required, and they said that cognition levels for junior officers and captains are equivalent to graduate-level work; master’s degrees are the level for majors or officer grade 3.

Q36 Sir Bob Russell: What would you say to the observation that qualifications obtained in Service are too military-focused and are not understood by civilian employers?

Rear Admiral Williams: Sir Bob, we must have ongoing and important engagement with employers, and we absolutely must have that support. We have talked about FR20, and we are going to rely on that amount of people supporting us. If I talk about the wounded, injured and sick transitioning into civilian life, and if I talk about the standard transition into civilian life after a military career, engaging with employers and trying to decode those things that might appear slightly odd and abstract in the military is something that we absolutely have to do.

Q37 Sir Bob Russell: The reason I phrased the question as I did is because most respondents to this Committee’s online survey, which was administered by the National Audit Office, stated that they had studied for civilian qualifications, but only 46% of those who have obtained a civilian qualification thought that they were completely or mostly transferable. That is less than half.

Rear Admiral Williams: I guess that that information is from those who are in the Service.

Q38 Sir Bob Russell: Yes.

Rear Admiral Williams: There is a difficulty, it seems to me, with those in the Service understanding, or being sure about, how transferable their skills are.

Q39 Sir Bob Russell: So it could be a misconception?

Rear Admiral Williams: It might well be a misconception, because if I look at the engagement we have done very recently as part of the FR20 work and the Green Paper, those employers who we have managed to engage with appear to venerate and understand those skills that the military brings to their offices. British Telecom, for example, cannot have enough ex-military in its ranks of technicians. I wonder whether it is actually a misconception. If I look at the career transition partnership, we seem to score above 90% in Service people getting a job. That seems to me to be proof that, as long as we work on translating those military skills and trying to put them in words that people will understand, they are there. Of course, we take civilian qualifications wherever we can.

Q40 Sir Bob Russell: Clearly the Committee is looking at the whole inquiry, so we are not trying to find fault-at least I hope we are not trying to find fault-but we are trying to get helpful answers. Do you think the armed forces have done enough to ensure that training undertaken by Service personnel leads to civilian qualifications? If so, so that we can make recommendations to the Secretary of State, what has been done and what more needs to be done?

Rear Admiral Williams: I will take that sequentially. We are able to put up to 10% extra into a course to ensure a civilian qualification, and if you see that as being helpful, it is a useful thing to support because it seems to me that that helps us as we try to design education programmes for the armed forces. That is pretty much defending the status quo.

In terms of focusing on the right area in decoding military skills and translating them into something that will be useful in civilian life, the contract has not been going on for ever. I do not know how long the CTP contract is, but we can probably find out. I have just been through three days’ worth of the resettlement programme with a civilian company. They worked very well indeed to translate my military skills into something that I initially found unrecognisable.

Q41 Sir Bob Russell: Has the MOD experienced any barriers to getting its courses recognised as civilian qualifications? The crucial word there is "barriers."

Rear Admiral Williams: It would be wrong of me to say that there have been no difficulties in getting people to understand what we are doing-and try and benchmark. And, therefore, are there barriers? Well, I guess there are sometimes barriers in understanding. But I am looking-certainly in the naval area that I commanded, we did not find any area that we could not eventually get understanding and-

Q42 Sir Bob Russell: So they were not too defence-orientated that the civilians said, "We don’t want that, it’s too defence"?

Rear Admiral Williams: I never had an experience where the civilian accreditor said, "You’re just too defence". They just tried to understand what it was we were doing and advise us as to-perhaps with minor changes, and with certain slightly different schematics, you could tick the boxes that they needed to be ticked.

Colonel Johnstone: It is usually the other way round.

Rear Admiral Williams: I was going to say it was absolutely usually the other way round, where civilian accreditors are looking to benchmark against, or to use ours.

Q43 Sir Bob Russell: Chairman, I was prompted to ask this question because I have been trying to get answers out of Ministers. I hope I am not misquoting Mark Francois, who told me, "Young people joining the armed forces are engaged in a full-time occupation and so, unlike a school, but in common with other employers, the training they undertake is designed to prepare them for their role in a chosen trade or specialisation." But people who join Her Majesty’s armed forces are not going to be there until they are 65. Moreover, that is going to be just the first phase of their working life, before they then return to civilian life.

Rear Admiral Williams: Yes.

Q44 Sir Bob Russell: So they are not the same, are they?

Rear Admiral Williams: Well, I suppose I could not demur from Mr Francois’s comment, because I suppose-I know what he is saying. Perhaps, if he were here, he would complete the sentence and would talk about the-

Q45 Sir Bob Russell: We will raise that with him.

Rear Admiral Williams: I suspect he would talk about the time when transition into civilian life is appropriate. We spend money and we take time and help individuals get accredited, get the kind of qualifications they want to get. There is money available to get civilian qualifications, if you want to go and do something completely different.

I think, throughout the Service-if he were here, he would certainly say that we fight for and spend the money to accredit that which we do in a military sense, and for a civilian. So flying a fast jet aeroplane, for example-funding the civilian pilot’s licence, which seemed at one stage to me to be rather counter-intuitive. You might imagine all the pilots would immediately leave, but actually what it meant was that they felt that they were being invested in and did not feel that there was green grass over the other side that they really wanted to focus on. And it helped retention. So that is the sort of thing-there is a good business reason for doing a lot of this.

Chair: Thank you. I think we will draw this evidence session to a close now. I thank you both very much indeed. I should like to hang on to the Committee itself for a very brief private session. But to both of you, may I say thank you very much for some very interesting evidence? It was very helpful.

Prepared 16th July 2013