Within the past few months, my Sqn has had several (new) cadets leave because it wasn’t like they expected based on the RAFAC website and national/local Facebook posts (regular band, shooting, flying etc). I also know of people that would’ve joined but thought they’d be forced into things like being part of a band on a big parade. We recently had a new CI show up for a bit and leave soon after as they thought the organisation would be more outdoors based (AT, DofE, fieldcraft etc).
So with that in mind, do we create the right image for the organisation?
We don’t mention flying to new parents/cadets. We mention we do a lot of sport, uk and overseas camps and various out doorsy Sqn activities with a dash of DofE.
We make it clear that we don’t force Cadets to do things they don’t want to but if we feel they will gain from doing something or we see potential then we will actively encourage them to try something.
Recently we’ve had a handful of recruits and they seem to be enjoying it so far so that’s a bonus.
in our wing we have one Squadron who is very much the “drill” Squadron, who are very rarely seen doing much else on their promotion.
the same can be said for a Squadron who are champions of radio, and air rifle shooting.
one is a watersports mecca in the wing, with more boats (canoes and kayaks) than some units have Cadets!
others all they do is AT, climbing one week, orienteering the next.
to cover all of that in one pamphlet about the organisation is bound to offer a warpped view of what one single unit is capable of.
with reference the CI who left because they were expecting it to be more AT based - they could have made that happen.
i made shooting happen on the unit i was once with as they had nothing and thought it was something others did. I got myself through the courses and put training and live fire shooting days together.
I am not saying every staff member should (or can) pick up a subject as a novice and 2 years later be the Squadron champion, but if there is a gap in experiences offered to the Cadets and someone willing to fill that gap then that Staff member (or O18 Cadet) should be encouraged.
there is no way any single Squadron can sufficiently hit all the activities we promote to do, but no reason why we can’t give a handful of them ago…
I think the Air Cadets do advertise themselves correctly for an umbrella organisation - I think it’s down to the Sqns to advertise what they do regularly at theirs.
We are particularly active on social media and will always point potential cadets there be ages it shows a realistic view of what we do. We’ve yet to have anyone leave because it’s not what they expected.
although i don’t disagree with this statement, when promoting the Squadron in a non digital way, be that attending a fete with recruitment stand or similiar, i suggest 50% or more of the promotional material is from HQAC showing an umbrella view.
certainly the units i have been on pick up the box of promotional pamphlets received and hand them out, perhaps with a copy of Air Cadet Magazine none of which was representative of the activities that happened on that unit.
what was (the display boards) were representative of what we achieved in a year, photos of Cadets from the Squadron at a AEF, Annual Camp, DofE Exed, Shooting, Parade or other experience, but they were on display as examples us doing those headline events, not necessarily proportional of the number of times flying, or shooting occurred.
(as well all know, these boards are a bane as their out of date when photos are attached to them, at best often 6 months old and typically kept on the boards for 24+ months before someone updates them!)
When and however we get contacted, we direct people to our Social Media pages “in the meantime” so that they can see what we’ve been up to.
When speaking with parents and potential recruits at events or open nights, we give the umbrella view of all the possible activities, but make it clear that we can’t provide them all on the unit, some of those that are left aren’t available within the Wing, some things only come around once per year for a handful, some things have age requirements, some have training requirements, etc.
So we’re quite open and realistic about things, setting the expectation that if you want to get that fantastic opportunity they need to put the work in, wait for it to come around, and might need to get themselves there, and even then it’s not guaranteed.
For staff enquiries, it’s equally honest. “What do you bring to the table? What are you interested in? These are the gaps that we have, this is how we can help, we can’t help with this but can you put in touch with the right people who will explain it for you.” If we can identify a specialism such as AT, shooting, etc, explain the likely opportunities, put them in touch with the right people within the Wing, and then support where necessary with the onus on them to do what they need to do.
It’s possible they did and were fed duff gen. Someone who doesn’t know/isn’t sure and can’t be bothered to check will pick the option with least risk (that can’t, in effect, be wrong because there’s no exposure from it).
Of course, that could apply to whoever claimed to have checked, too.
I’ve long since learned that following up and asking more questions can help confirm either way by forcing action. Not something an uninitiated newbie might be comfortable with, though.
They probably did and were given duff info. With tonnes of conflicting information in our ACPs its hard for someone to take a pragmatic approach and they simply say no instead. I cant count the amount of times i have had to screenshot a document to prove my point, even after that they still sometimes argue the toss.
I think every Squadron or detached flight has an obligation to set expectations when someone joins. The face of the organisation is one thing (brochureware) but our own Squadron websites, Facebook pages and what we say to new recruits has to reflect what we do. If you don’t you fail the new recruits. Our expectations are set the first night new ones join by running an intake evening where both recruits and parent(s) receive a talk / presentations. In addition we speak to the parents whilst new recruits go off to do some drill.
If you’re not realistic about what your Squadron actually does then you will disappoint those joining and ultimately they will leave and tell 10 more how rubbish it was.
The national promotional blurb has been a problem and misleading since April 2014 and in some respects increasingly so since the mid 90s as the RAF has contracted. The national view is now massively skewed from the local experience of 99.9% of cadets.
Could you honestly expect the national advertising to reflect the current true position, “join the ATC and if you’re really, really, really lucky you might get to do one of these things”.
Camps are a joke and will never meet the expectation. The new ‘national’ camps have so few places to make them almost pointless. Maybe the national promo should say run at x with y national places annually, to give a true perspective of the chance to get to do it.
I’ve not mentioned gliding or flying (except potential for flying at camp) since our intake in early 2014 (when we still did gliding), as I would have been telling a bare faced lie about the opportunity to do these. It still feels odd being in the AIR TRAINING Corps and no longer spending 5-10 minutes talking about flying and extolling the opportunities to prospective cadets and others, in fact now trying to avoid / gloss over things and hope no one asks a question. They can get away with it on the national sites because it depends where you live, especially wrt flying. Intake talks now concentrate wholly on what I know we do and can offer locally. What was once an organisation with an embarrassment of riches is now IMO an embarrassment. We try sell ourselves with things available in other similar youth organisations, that don’t have the same choking oversight we are exposed to.
If people talk to me about ‘cadets’, they are astounded that flying especially given our parent body is so little and effectively non-existent. Oddly ‘ordinary’ people feel flying should high on the agenda.
But it still doesn’t stop us cajoling kids to join. I wouldn’t touch the promo things that HQAC do and concentrate on what you know you, offer, do and how much. A colour printer, few photos and bit of imagination job done or take advantage of offers with printing businesses. Get some done and if you do an event, with permission, put one under the wipers of cars in the event’s car park. 1000 A5 glossy from Vistaprint c.£30+ postage, if one cadet stays, 3 or 4 months subs would pay for them. I’ve done this a few times and got them into schools, along with other things to promote us.
It’s also about Sqns working together to help cadets get the most out of ATC/CCF Have competitions between sqns but do the training together to utilise the staff we have. Also encouraging staff to do this as we are actually all part of the same team.
We work with several squadrons and it never quite works.
We used to work with one squadron really well. My mate ran it and I knew all the staff really well. There was a change of CO and he wasn’t so keen, so a good working relationship was lost. He also within 6 months managed to kill the staff dynamic on the sqn. One of the blokes moved to a sqn a bit closer to his home and we work together now, although the OC isn’t really keen.
A concern with working with others as we found is it can be a really fragile existence and a change of staff can mean cadets and staff lose out. I knew my mate was resigning but I (and he) never imagined how ir turned out. He did apologise, but it wasn’t his fault.