In January 2021, Royal Navy (RN) recruits began training at HMS Collingwood for the first time in decades, and this is down to a response to both the growing RN and a surge in interest in joining up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As 2020 ended, applications to join the RN, Royal Marines (RM) and Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) were up by around one third on 2019 ﬁgures (34% for officers and 28% for those wanting to become ratings or join the ranks of the Royal Marines).
Over the past 12 months:
- 5,944 people have applied to become officers across the Royal Navy.
- 1 in 9 wanting to become an F-35 or helicopter pilot, although the ﬁgure would have been higher as recruiters expected a spike when Tom Cruise’s Top Gun sequel was released … only for it to be delayed by Covid.
- 18,872 applied to become a rating or join the Royal Marines ranks, up from 14,757.
To meet the growing demand, beginning on 11 January, an additional 500 men and women will be turned from civilians into sailors at HMS Collingwood in Fareham, where they will complete their initial naval training package.
This is in addition to Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC), the spiritual home of the Officer Corps in Dartmouth, which has just taken a second intake of junior ratings on the ten-week initial course after already successfully delivering one entry.
It is a task traditionally performed at HMS Raleigh in Torpoint but, even though it has ramped up capacity by taking on an extra 330 raw recruits, and due to deliver more than 3,000 sailors in the next 12 months, more are needed.
It has turned to HMS Collingwood, the Navy’s Warfare and Weapon engineering school – and its largest training establishment – to assist, while further intakes are also planned to go to BRNC as well.
However, despite the above success, recruiters are still actively seeking new applications, not least in the Reserves, for both the RN and RM.
The Reserves have been heavily called-upon and mobilised during the pandemic, but applications to join the Maritime Reserve have not matched those to become Regulars.
Officer Recruitment & Selection
Meeting the challenges of the pandemic to recruitment has enabled the RN to better use technology, to do things differently, and make use of best practices in the commercial recruiting sector to aid them in selecting future officers.
For example, The Admiralty Interview Board (AIB), which determines whether applicants have the ‘right stuﬀ’ to become Naval Officers, is now delivered in a fully virtual manner, using video conferencing. This was rapidly adapted in response to the pandemic and is still being refined, with a fully-online digitised version expected to be in place by this summer.
Navy News. (2021) Collingwood Take On Recruit Influx. Navy News. January 2021, pp.27.