Targets for new joiners are largely being met despite the planning and logistical challenges created by pandemic restrictions and national lockdowns.
Colonel Nick MacKenzie, Assistant Director, Army Recruiting and Initial Training Command, said a number of measures taken during the year had kept the throughput of new recruits flowing freely.
“We have adapted our processes to ensure people keep coming through the door and the pipeline stays open,” he told Soldier. Reserve recruitment has taken a slight hit due to minor capacity issues at our assessment centres and these candidates also have other challenges such as managing day jobs during these extraordinary times.”
However, as of the end of October, around 65% of the Regular soldier target of 9,867 personnel had either started their basic training or had been loaded to a future basic training course.
The outlook for officer recruitment was equally optimistic, with both the April and September intakes to Sandhurst full and the January 2021 allocation already loading well.
“It’s been challenging but we’ve been proactive,” said the officer. “During the first lockdown in March the recruits in basic training were sent home and then we had to get them back again in a Covid-compliant way. “We paused all visits to the Regular soldier assessment centres, and managed to do a lot of preparation work virtually instead.
“In June we reopened them with reduced capacity but streamlined the stage of medical, fitness and cognitive tests from two-and-a-half days down to one, to keep the numbers up. Also, we replaced our Glencorse assessment centre in Scotland, which was used by many recruits from northern England, with a temporary one in Strensall.”
Colonel MacKenzie believes 2021 looks equally as bright thanks to an increase in applications so far this year compared with the previous period, as well as the advent of a brand new recruitment campaign that will launch early next year.
- Recruits now complete an online health questionnaire before arriving at basic training, declaring whether they are showing symptoms of Covid-19 or have come into contact with anyone who has.
- On arrival for basic training recruits are monitored for 14 days and form a primary household based on those they will share their accommodation with.
- Personnel maintain two-metre social distancing where possible, but can reduce to one metre in certain prescribed circumstances.
- There is an emphasis on understanding force health protection measures during training to ensure the pipeline stays clear.
Soldier. (2020) Keeping Up The Flow. Soldier: Magazine of the British Army. December 2020, pp.16.