BRITAIN’S economy is now far more progressive than the period, still relatively recently, when a career in the Army was the only career choice for male school-leavers from predominantly deprived areas.
Yet, as the issue and importance of post-16 education has risen up the political agenda, the Armed Forces is struggling to recruit in areas like Yorkshire which is proud of its association with Catterick Garrison – the British Army’s largest base in the world.
And central to this is the misguided decision back to 2012 to sub-contract recruitment to Capita, an outsourcing company with little or no experience of military matters, in order to save costs. The consequence was the dismantling of a tried and tested recruitment system and ineffectual campaigns. Not only have targets been missed, but only now, four years late, is an online system being introduced for recruits. It is little wonder so many young people have turned their backs on the Armed Forces when they have been waiting many months for a response to their application.
Disrespectful and discourteous, it reflects badly on the Army’s status as a responsible employer. And today’s report by the Public Accounts Committee does not inspire confidence in past or present defence ministers.
An army is only as good as its soldiers and leaders. Yet, without sufficient new recruits each year, it cannot fulfil its primary role – protecting this country’s security interests.