Retaining cadets and staff

I read this BBC article ( and thought that it was very relevant to retaining RAFAC cadets and staff.

In particular, this paragraph:
“There are three things that people consider when deciding whether to stay or leave. The first is, am I growing and learning? The second is, do I have friends in the company? The third is, am I making an impact - does the world get better or does something in the world get better as a result of the time I’m spending here?”

Different parts will apply differently to each individual of course and, unlike a job, sometimes people will leave because they just don’t have time.

So my equivalent questions to consider for our RAFAC units are:

  1. Are we delivering interesting activities and opportunities for development?
  2. Does the unit have a friendly supportive atmosphere and provide chances for socialising and having fun?
  3. Is the effort by staff and cadets making a positive difference and is this being recognised?
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Isnt all that just a very wordy way of asking…

Is it fun, friendly, worthwhile?

Pretty much the criteria any human uses to decide most social activities.


I like your simpler version too. Have you applied those questions to how you run your Sqn? Did you change anything?

All the time.

In fact I personally basically have 2 rules.

We only do things which are fun, friendly and worthwhile.

And, we dont do any activities i wouldnt be prepared to do myself.
I.e. I dont sign the cadets up to litter pick at a community event, unless I have either done it recently or are there to assist.

Has any of this made a difference?
Difficult to tell as I have always had these personal policies.

We do have a very low turn over of cadets (in normal times). Even now as we emerge from lockdown, we havent lost too many and really only those at the ‘critical’ age break of 16 where jobs and boys/girls comes into it.

Hard to fight against that if they turned 16, 9 months ago, now have a job and girlfriend…

Otherwise things are pretty stable.

I can see first hand that local Sqns who just mindlessly smash out activities only the staff want have faired not quite as well.

I wish. I have grown to loathe Air Cadet parades, as it invariably means losing a day, going miles to somewhere you’d never go otherwise and stand around for ages for someone you don’t care about to say “You’re all doing very well” (old Mr Grace style), then go home not achieving anything. Absolutely pointless and meaningless. If I could just say we ain’t comin’ without getting earache about it, I would. I’ve had family things in the past and said I’m not going and the grief is ridiculous. We may only have one a year, but that’s two too many.


I think from experience a successful Squadron is one where the OC and the Civcom work closely together, and that the OC is fortunate he has a good team with various skills which then contribute towards a varied programme of activities;, Teens (and anyone really) can quickly get bored if there is insufficient activity to maintain their interests and allow them to contribute to everyone’s ultimate benefit. We had an extremely varied pool of human resource, but for some reason our existence as a successful thriving Squadron, part of a Station Community and the wider public, did not appear to feature in the plans of a certain uniformed gentleman who had his own agenda. What remains is simply a centre for DofE with nothing beyond that. I cant see that the appointment of a volunteer adviser will make a difference, because if you have the wrong people with the wrong mindset holding all the cards and in what they perceive to be a position of authority, you will continue a downward spiral and all the people you really need to hang on, to will walk.

If you can exist with minimal interference from officialdom all well and good. But I have been witness to some appaling excesses of authority which the top echelons have been unwilling to curtail, without a change I cannot see the RAFAC surviving another 80 years. There has certainly been a loss of good people leaving, especially those with former Service experience, because they wont suffer fools gladly.

It is nice to get pat on the back, but not when the other hand holds a dagger!

The news report is about everyone working as a team to deliver and certainly highlights the effect of taking out one key player, but it is about private sector innovation which does not necessarily work in a publicly funded environment.

You’re either in a different organisation from me or you don’t know what you’re talking about. DofE is a small but important part of Sqn activities but there is huge amounts more going on.

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I know lots of sqn who are very successful and active but don’t do DofE

I think it depends how we perceive ourselves going forward; are we an organisation that is basically an activity teenager baby-sitting service just for the sake of doing them. Or, as where the DofE comes in, doing something constructive that the kids will get something meaningful that the outside world understands and appreciates. All the “soft/transferable” skills are only recognised, in many cases, long after the fact.
You can be successful without say DofE but you need a group of staff who are able to deliver a range of things without too much repetition, whereas DofE cuts some slack. You can do any number of walks and IET practice as DofE skills, without it getting too repetitive Since the loss of flying we have upped the emphasis on DofE considerably, as we don’t have the staff to do enough activities without piggy-backing elsewhere.

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