Dire ATC CFAV decline, recruitment, and retention

I’m going to quote something from @pEp on the Cadet Forces thread and then move a few posts across.

This feels like something that deserves its own headline, separately from the general outlook across the ATC, CCF, ACF, etc.


I think the telling thing NOT reflected in these crude raw numbers, is our churn of CFAVs. The collective loss of skills, knowledge and experience over this time has, from my perspective, been massive - and far more concerning than a profile of CFAV headcount.

A more useful metric (which, of course, we won’t ever a sight of as end users!) would be to see a profile of staff by length of service - how many are “new” (less than 2 years service), how many have served 2-5 or 5-10 or 10+ years of service, for example. And it’s not like we can’t do this. Bader holds this granular level of data - we just need to interrogate it effectively.

Whilst there will always be a degree of natural wastage (and people leaving taking with them their invaluable (sometimes!) experience and knowledge) i do get the vibe that this has accelerated significantly post-covid. More than simply “losing the ghosts” on the system - but losing CFAVs with 20-30 years experience.

In some ways, this is arguably a good thing; some people simply cannot manage or keep pace with HQACs rate of change. But for others at the coal face, losing these staff members is a tragic loss! They would be the ones who’ve built up established relationships with the stakeholders which HQAC don’t see; the community links with the local council, with the other volunteer organisations, the charity links, the ones who could take cadets flying at short notice, or who’ve been around so long they were part of the fixtures and fittings at squadrons, able to open up for RFCA contractors, or embedded in the local RAF Stations mess because they served there when Dougie Bader was still kicking around, or the ones who had the established and trusted links with the local service charities - forged over many years of working together. It’s these losses which don’t necessarily get looked at or talked about when looking at those raw numbers.

I’m also seeing the “new blood” not staying as long as they have previously. Shiny new baby officers, ex cadets, straight into commission, straight into squadron and straight into command without much time to develop and burn out within 3-5 years. And with 20% less staff available, that’s less people for coaching and mentoring these new staff, fostering, nurturing and building a sustainable staff member for the now - and for the future.

So whilst HQAC might be a little worried that our numbers have dropped by 21% overall - i’d be far more worried at the loss of skilled and experienced mentors, coaches and leaders at the grass roots level and what HQAC are planning to do to address retention rather than recruitment to stop it slipping further.


After 31 years from Cadet to staff I’ve had enough (44 years old). When a hobbie becomes a chore and you stop enjoying it, it’s time to throw it away and find something else. I’m getting out before I say something that means I leave under a cloud. I’ve managed so far not do anything that means I’m booted out under a cloud…well maybe told a few WSO’s a few home truths!

Being treated like a baby and constantly hearing negative developments, tonight I hand in my resignation. I’m offering an 8 week notice, but I won’t be up -set if tonight at 21:30 the uniform is in the wash for the last time.

Honestly people, keep up the good work! Your efforts are appreciated by those who really matter…The CADETS. And some staff (CFAV and Perms.) need to remember that!

Over and Out


@Batfink has hit the nail on the head, loss of corporate knowledge is the greatest problem for any organisation, but I suspect far more in the RAFAC as they have to rely on the volunteer cadre to survive as an entity.

A loss of 21% is a large drop and looking at this in a physical manner, a Squadron of 10 staff or even 5 staff, can they afford to lose 20% of the CFAV cadre? This sort of loss means the cadet offer reduced and dependent on the CFAVs skills and abilities, which may be a lot of that a Squadron’s offer. The grinding down of activities that CFAVs enjoy and more importantly morale amongst the CFAV cohort at Squadron level.

Covid and ‘lockdown’ has had effect, people re-evaluating their lives, employment and family commitment, in particular that daddy is around looking after their wife and children at weekends and evenings rather than being out at the ATC. The changes to VA and will have an effect, either as an incentive to the DCoS to ‘allow’ weekends away etc or to make up shortfalls in equipment for the individual to safely pursue activities.

Then you have the problems that @VirtualRealityTrooper encountered with a WSO and their attitude, CFAVs are now I suspect less likely to tolerate such an attitude.

The big question for the RAFAC at a corporate level is why have the ACF/SCC are recruiting, is it because their ‘offer’ to CFAVs is far better and in particular the one night a week parades, a lack of a ‘nannying’ attitude from above, poorly thought out communications. The other question is how many have left the ATC and moved to the ACF/SCC or terminated being a CFAV altogether.


And called it the Air Scouts perhaps. Oh, hang on a minute…that air minded organisation already exists!

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Group Captain Andy Pass MBE takes up the role of Senior Volunteer Advisor today, 29th June 2021, reporting to Commandant Air Cadets, Air Commodore Tony Keeling. His job is to ensure that the volunteer perspective is represented in policy areas. Key to this will be to influence the RAFAC Senior Leadership Team on the change programme to support the RAF Air Cadets Astra programme.

Given how much HQAC likes a review, is it time to review the post of ‘Senior Volunteer Advisor’?
Losing this many staff and doing nothing to support those left would be grounds for a sacking in the private sector!


5 (or close to) being far more common (I suspect), that’s an entire category of activities lost for many units.

That’s wings losing 20% of their larger scale delivery as well - 20% of AT capacity lost (again with only 1 or 2 with certain specialist qualifications, or even 3 or 4, that’s 25, 50, or higher loss in that area potentially.

20% of fieldcraft, except no it’s higher in some areas due to extended pauses or currency loss during lockdown and then the changeover of the syllabus…

It goes on…


…so it’s really no wonder that more are feeling strained and over-stressed, even before you factor in the multitude of changes and additions that have been put upon CFAV.

Yet HQAC and the Commandant have the gall to puff their chests, talking about the good work they’re doing.

If something doesn’t change rapidly, from the top, to tackle recruitment and retention, yes.


It would interesting to see if next year the graph is a steeper decline, shallower decline, levelled off or a rise.

Is it worth merging or linking the previous years discussions into one thread or it keep them all separate.

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I’ve lost 60% of my uniformed staff and over half my CIs. Though I don’t think they show in the stats we also lost several cadets who could have been staff cadets, and later CFAV.

And it can’t all be Covid as we’ve not kept the couple of staff who joined post lockdown.

Now it could just be down to me… (I hope it isn’t)

I fear the survey understates the true scale of the problem.


I dont think this is the full picture either. I have 2 out of my 8 staff who have resigned over 2 years ago but nobody has processed their resignations and removed them from SMS. They will eventually join the other 5 staff sat in the suspended part of SMS as their DBS’s expire. So thats 7 staff alone on one unit who have left but not reflected in this stats.


I think this is going to be a common thing across the org.

Especially this year where we have a lot of people silently quit due to activity and budget cuts.


A few thoughts.

  1. This is total CFAV numbers on books.
    Analysis - therefore this includes ‘dead weight’ not yet discharged or identified as having left.

  2. Distribution will be uneven.
    Analysis - what percentage are based on Sqn.
    How many are wing or region or corps staff or central teams like SATTs etc etc.

  3. Causes.
    We know the causes. Loss of identifiable activities. Increased work and admin burden. Loss of privileges like VA. Lower satisfaction. Lower prestige for those it matters to. Loss of service engagenent. Cost of living increases leading to staff burn out. COVID. etc etc.


  • At what point is the line in the sand where this is terminal? Or at least the offering is a shadow of its offer self. I would argue that it sits somewhere between 8000 and 10000 CFAVs. So we may well have crossed it already.

  • what is being done to rectify these problems? It seems and feels like nothing.

Having had personal direct engagenent with ol tone recently, i can say first hand that his ineptitude knows no bounds, his grip on the issues is non existent and he cares not for the future of this org. My opinion is that he mentally clocked out a couple of months into the role.

Without substantial gripping of this org. With a clear, communicated vision, funded and executed to a plan, this org will be finished by 2040.

Sounds an eon away.
But thats only 16 years.
Or in cadet terms, only 3 ‘generations’ of cdt.

Sad, desperate times.


I’m coming towards the end of my ELA. Still unsure if I’m coming back. Currently considering a move to CI if I do come back. Would need to find a squadron I can transfer to as my work pattern means the CCF isn’t really an option right now.

But I’ve also arranged to go down to the local SCC unit and discuss joining them. All the jokes got me looking into it and realising it’s possibly a viable option.


Can someone work out the cadet/staff ratio please? For each year?

(Not in the frame of mind to be doing maths right now.)

About 4,5:1

(I think last chart should actually read ‘cadet to staff ratio’, but you all know what it means.

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Staff and cadet numbers charts split out individually:


And again, that’s not factoring in the number of CFAV not on squadrons.

That y scale/vertical compression (edit: on the combined graph) doesn’t quite do the change in CFAV numbers enough justice at a glance.

While you seem to be in the mood, can you do up a % change with a POS and neg y axis with both on as well?


Like this?


Someone might want to check the maths, but it looks about right.

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