Should I volunteer for my local ATC?

Hi everyone, I’m here because I’ve been thinking about volunteering for the ATC. I want to know if I should do this, and if so then why should I volunteer here please? I like the idea of overseeing flights and the presence of the local ATC at air shows. Can you please help me? Thanks.

The ATC is a wonderful organisation. But every squadron is different. I’d email the one your looking to join and go and have a chat.

You’ll get many different opinions on here, good and bad. However it’s your experience and journey so just reach out and say hello and see how it goes.


Awesome, that’s what I’ll do. I know the Flight Lieutenant there, which I assume will be an advantage as he will of course be open and honest with me and ensure that I’m not treated unfairly or discriminated against. Thanks.


Good luck and let us know how it goes.

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Really question what you want to get out of it.

You’ve talked about flying and air shows, the ‘cooler’ side of the ATC/RAF. That might take up one or if you’re lucky 2 Saturdays a year.

The other 98% of your time will be much more down to earth, and from a distance pretty unrecognisable from other youth groups. Lessons, teamwork task, sprinkling of drill, they might be learning first aid etc.

If you get fired up by the idea of an under-confident 12 year old walking in one day with a pretty average future laid out in front of them, walking out at 18 brimming with confidence and equipped with more life skills than half a dozen of their mates out together, that’s when you’ve found the right place to volunteer.

Don’t be put off either by the shouting/marching etc. Mostly just for show for the cadets. At the heart of it all we provide a safe place for kids to be themselves, and importantly to better themselves. Nothing else matters.

It’s also highly addictive and you’ll be speaking in acronyms - caveat emptor.


Also, don’t be put off by the whinging you’ll see on this website.

There are frustrations for volunteers in dealing with the RAF - who have other, bigger jobs to do - and with the RAF Air Cadets bureaucracy - which is a typical public sector bureacracy, I’m afraid. People come on here to vent.

But the cadets are excellent value and will put a smile on your face every time.


Well that’s a very baited statement.

I want to give something back to the community and have something to put on my CV as I’m unemployed and currently looking for work, which is very difficult.

I’ve had people suggest University as an alternative to jobseeking, but I laughed and dismissed the idea as a joke as I couldn’t even cope with a 2 year BTEC course a few years back, I ended up dropping out after the first year. I doubt I could handle Uni.

Volunteering with the ATC can be a really great place for personal development.

For me, the biggest thing has been self-confidence: standing up in front of a group of cadets and instructing on a regular basis is great for that, as is organising and successfully pulling off any event (however small).

To be upfront though, many of the qualifications that we go through are not really recognised outside of RAFAC (even, for example, first aid qualifications aren’t generally recognised by employers). Some are (e.g. in the adventure training world), and there are also options (admittedly with non-zero cost) through the Cadet Vocational College to gain awards loosely equivalent to A level and degree level in e.g. Leadership and Management.

None of this comes without significant time and effort, though - not suggesting you are, but if you were after a “quick win” this probably isn’t it. Expect to get out less than what you put in.

I’m fine with putting in what I need to and getting out “less than what I put in”. I’m not looking for a “quick win”, I’m just looking for some volunteer work to put on my CV. I currently volunteer at a gardening club once per week, but it’s boring and involves a journey 12 miles each way! Meaning that I have to make a 24 mile round trip for something that I don’t particularly enjoy. My local detachment is about a 5 minute walk away on the other hand.

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This isn’t a loaded question or intended to be dissuasive, but (given what you’ve said) why the ATC (or indeed, any cadet force)?

That aside, what can you offer in terms of skills and experience? It’s not a requirement, but it makes it easier and will feel more worthwhile the more you bring in.

I ask, because you need to have a rough idea of what you have, what interests you, and where you might like to go with it. That can be purely admin and support based, or it can be specialist instructing, it can be delivering less formal seasons developed from your experience, knowledge, or research that build skills while being “off topic”, or it can be something completely new that takes your fancy. There’s no right answer, but you can’t expect the organisation to make those decisions for you.

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Respectfully I disagree with some of that.

I came in with no particular idea of what I wanted to do, just that I wanted to do something.
I’ve ended up doing bits of everything as I’ve meandered my way around different activities.

So I agree with this…

… but argue that it’s fine to not know what you want to contribute just yet. Once you’ve got a feel for what goes on, you can find out what’s most exciting to you and focus in on that.

I’d be ready to answer the “Why the ATC?” question though - you’ll definitely be asked that one.

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Why on Earth would you want to ensure you were not discriminated against or treated unfairly? That’s hell of a statement to make as an initial comment!!


I know it’s nearby, that they’re looking for volunteers, and on top of that I’ve known the Flight Lieutenant for years and we get on. I know a bit about Computing from the year I did of a Level 3 BTEC course in Computing, I’ve been volunteering at a youth club on and off since about 2018, and I want somewhere where the children will behave. If they don’t behave, I want to be empowered to tear off their heads. Not like the youth club I once volunteered at where I kept getting told off for laying down the law.

I’m interested in helping out with keeping an eye on the kids, and would love to become a full time professional youth worker. I have an interest in coaching team sports, and also like doing the odd few lengths at a nearby swimming pool.

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I don’t know what to expect. Therefore ensuring that I know someone who can and will stick up for me is a good thing.

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Why would you even think you’d be discriminated against - how strange….


That’s fair; I was perhaps a little too definite in that statement.

It’s a smoother ride to have considered the skills and experience you have and how they could be used even if you don’t know what you want to do, because one can help shape the other.

Personally I’d be a little wary of someone with absolutely no concept of a self appraisal or considered ambition.

This makes me more than wary…

To put it nicely, that’s not an attitude compatible with our principles, nor conducive to any kind of professional career or voluntary working with young people… Or indeed simply staying off the barred list.

We’re a military-themed, uniformed youth organisation, not Borstal and none of us are Cpl Nauyokas. We work within a framework of rules, policies, and regulations that promote discipline while ALSO creating a safe and inclusive environment that creates the conditions for personal growth. Our goal is to develop young people through trained skills and curated experiences, not degrade and chastise them for the crime of being kids.

Oddly enough, sports coaching (and parent spectators) is also plagued with too many people that like shouting at kids.

If your true ambition is to “tear off their heads”, then please keep away.


If you can’t stick up for yourself, how do you think you can inspire our young men and women to do so?

I don’t get the point people are making on this thread. One moment I’m too aggressive, the next I’m not assertive enough given your comment. What the hell should I do?

One can be an assertive and forthright adult without wanting to exhibit aggression towards schoolchildren. They are not mutually exclusive.