You want to raise army numbers? Understand British youths

This post is a quick response to this article:
Firstly, Francois makes the point that more young people are staying on in education until they’re 18. This is the case because it’s now the law. Young people have to do one of the following until they’re 18:

* stay in full-time education, for example at a college

* start an apprenticeship or traineeship 

* spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering, while in part-time education or training

Young people can’t leave school at 16 and just get a job. If he means that less people are joining up aged 16, then I would direct him to Nick Carter’s thoughts from back in July of this year. Carter spoke about the implication of the public support being “very much based on sympathy and not necessarily empathy”. I believe he touched on how parents and teachers aren’t encouraging young people to sign up in a way that they, perhaps, used to. 

In terms of encouraging more ethnic minorities and women to join up, I’d argue this isn’t as simple a solution as it appears. Showing that the armed forces is an inclusive environment – not just for white men – is important for recruitment. However I don’t think it’ll boost numbers as much as they hope. As Francois alludes to himself, it’s young people we should be focusing our attentions on, ensuring the next generations want to join up. We should be looking at long term solutions, as well as these short term ideas. 

It goes without saying that medical testing should be reviewed, but standards shouldn’t be lowered to boost numbers. The phrase “quality, not quantity” springs to mind. 

Another idea he offered was increased lateral recruitment. It sounds like an interesting idea, but one that wouldn’t put more boots on the ground, if needs be. 

Finally, awareness in young people is key. As I’ve said, young people are key to a long term solution. However, I doubt bringing Armed Forces into the National Curriculum will work. Francois speaks like someone who has never sat in a modern PSE/citizenship less. We don’t learn about Parliament or the workings of democracy. We don’t even get told how taxes work. From my experience, these lessons are focused on sex education, and not much more. The idea isn’t completely silly, but if you want a programme that’ll inform young people on their society, then you’re going to need to reform how they receive it. An hour every two weeks will not cover all the topics that, apparently, we’re meant to be being taught. 

As I read the article, the main problem that stood out to me was the clear lack of understanding of how students go through education. Although Mark Francois makes some excellent points about army recruitment, I found the article symptomatic of a society that doesn’t understand how it’s young people are educated. As a young person this is what particularly concerned me. 

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