Off the top of my head, three ways to fix this -
- Being reactive to the current group
- Simply accepting that you may lose the current batch - but ensure it doesnt happen again
- Try and do both (which could see you run yourself ragged as it’ll mean tackling the issue from both directions!!!)
For the reactive route, consider bouncing it back to them. Find out what engages them, excites them and would roll them back into the fold. Address these needs but give them ownership of the problem - maybe assign them an NCO to support and manage them.
If they are senior cadets, but not quite NCOs, why? Can it be addressed? Do they want to be NCOs but you have no space? Do they have the qualities you’re looking for or is something missing?
From your description, I get the impression they are a tight cohort, so could you work within that team framework for a bespoke project with them? Could you draw in Sector support for a Bronze Leadership badge? Push them through some road marching, shooting, first aid or radio courses together? Use some sector support as other squadrons may have a similar cohort.
Could this cohort be used as mentors for junior cadets? Offer them responsibility to step up to the plate, to lead and to inspire. You don’t have to be an NCO to lead or mentor. You could just be a solid follower - and theres nothing wrong with that!
For option 2, I would also broaden your training program to reduce the risk of duplication of activities. I appreciate this is very resource/staffing dependent, but think long term - not just a quarterly/seasonal thing, but consider the really long term view of the cadet experience and cadet life expectancy. Let them explain how I view it…
Cadets average life expectancy is 2 years - 3 at a push - by which time they are either an NCO or other teenager pressures will see a natural drop off. The move to 12 year olds a few years back hasnt really changed that. I dont see us keeping cadets that much longer, but what I do see is an increasing number of 14 year old NCOs across the Wg!
For year 1, everything is new and exciting. They are finding their feet and finding their role in their flight and in the larger squadron environment. They are junior cadet moving towards first class. If they are lucky, they might get to go in camp, get some flying or gliding, maybe get some shooting. Maybe a few blue badges and might be thinking about the “what next” stuff for PTS.
For year 2, their feet are found, and they may revisit the same kind of activities as they did in Year 1 - but their role will change. They should have a better idea of leadership, should have junior cadets lower down the food chain, and NCOs above them. When they undertake these activities they will be familiar, but see it from a different perspective, learning new skills and furthering their knowledge of how/why things are done that way.
In year 3 they should be approaching NCOness. I’d be looking for them to be actively leading on activities - the same activities they may have already done before, but now with an entirely new role, with bigger responsibilities and a completely different focus on managing a team or task, whilst balancing it with the individual needs of the Year 1 / Year 2 cadets.
We all know there are a few really good, well established “out of the bag” activities that work, which the cadets enjoy and make a solid fall back. And that’s great. But lock them away in a box and leave them for 12 months.
With reference to STEM activities, the RAF100 STEM project launched 10 seperate STEM activities which can be delivered in a classroom. Spread these out, one every 2 months, delivered as flight activities so that people get more “hands on” with them rather than getting lost on the bigger squadron. Deliver A flights in Feb, with something concurrent for B flight - in March, swap over (the benefit for you is that you are just replicating the same activity twice and can learn from mistakes!). Now dont run this exercise until Feb 2022!
IIRC, the HQAC sharepoint site had a Training Officer area or STEM area which has a series of similar exercises which could again be cycled through over 2 years.
Look at your existing squadron or sector staff and see if theres anything they could do that’s “different”. Untapped skills. Some of the OU Open Learn courses make great interest evenings.
If you use LinkedIn or have a squadron Alumuni, tap them up to reduce the pressure on you to magic up the answers - but also bring in fresh ideas of things to slip into the training program to offer something else.
Visit other squadrons and see how they do things. Tap up the Wg training team for some visits.
Just diversify and spread the load. Stretch it over a longer timeframe, but also across whatever resources you have available.
But, a word of caution… dont worry if this cohort go. Cadets simply grow out of being cadets. You have offered them a solid foundation in everything we offer but the draw of other teenager stuff could simply be to strong. Accept it and move on. Squadrons go and peaks and troughs, and this is just one of those cycles. You could bust an absolute gut trying option 1 and find yourself burnt out in a heap on the floor with nothing left to give only to find they outgrew cadets!
Cohorts that often join together will leave together, it’s just how peer groups work and is one of the downsides of intakes. Just accept it and move on.