Valuing volunteers


Hi All first post and can’t see if this has been discussed before, but wonder people’s thoughts on RAFAC’s approach to valuing volunteers?

I don’t mean, do volunteers feel valued, if we get a thanks or reward etc. But how it truly valued the staff asset it has in terms of qualifications, skills and experience.

Recently I filled out a form to attend a camp which asked for relevant camp experience and RAFAC quals relevant for the camp but didn’t ask what experience I have outside the organisation that might also be useful. I have also heard time and again how the organisation goes about it business at a command level where there are people inside the organisation with potentially more skills and experience than held at that command level.

In this, does the hierarchical nature of the organisation hold us back? Do we forget that although there may be a person who in their spare time is a RAFAC Sgt, in their work time they could be in a role equivalent to that of an Air Cdre?

In the pursuit of really valuing our staff should the org capture all skills and experience and seek to use them? Would that lead to staff feeling more listen to? Should the question, rather than do staff feel valued be, does the organisation value the the wide ranging asset it has and make all efforts to maintain and nurture it?

What are your thoughts? How should we do things differently if at all?


I feel your question is two fold:
1 - do CFAVs feel valued as Staff?
2 – are other skills recognised?

To answer 1 – that is dependant on local circumstances and I would even go as far as personal opinion. While one unit and OC openly recognises and thanks support offered and given, others might not. However than same OC may have someone in the team who feels overlooked.

To answer 2 – it is very dependant on how it can be applied. I know at RIAT for example the H&S Officer is a vastly qualified and experienced H&S Officer in the civilian world, likewise the campsite electricians are qualified electricians, either working for themselves or employed in such a role.

On a Wing level, our Wing Band Master has been playing music all their life and with a selection of instruments so well placed for the role.
Personally I am an engineer and hold a PPL – my “external skills” are best utilised for classification training being well placed to teach certain subjects and topics.

Does the organisation hold us back?
I guess that depends on what skills people have and what they want to do. Not everyone wants to do at Squadron what he or she does at work. A friend in the Wing is a manager in their working environment, they are a team leader and working at scheduling tasks prioritising workload etc. At unit however they are the Adj, quite happy to be a “paper pusher” with no interest in being anything else, and certainly not a OC despite the apparent skills to people manage and make critical decisions.
Likewise a friend is an H&S Officer at work but is very happy acting as the Radio Officer with no interest in doing a H&S role in the RAFAC.

I think your suggestion of “capturing all skills and seek to use them” is dependent on what skills are out there and what skills the organisations wants found.
I have CFAV friends who are school teachers, College lecturers, train managers (ticket inspectors), Duty Managers at McDonalds, work for the MOD, MOD Contractors, Bankers, Youth Workers, Council Workers, H&S inspectors, Convenience Store workers, mechanics, Sales persons, Retail Store Managers, Ambulance technicians, Air Traffic Controllers, Fireman, Electrician, Commercial Pilot, Therapist, Contract designer, accountant, Groundsman, truck driver, Utilities operations manager, University professor, Nurse, IT operative.

Are those skills best utilised? Only really where the CFAV chooses to use them…out of that broad list the most utilised “skill” is management and leadership, but arguably the organisation offers that, certainly to those who were ex-Cadets and benefited from working through the rank structure.

I am not saying we can’t do things differently, we all know the system is far from perfect but just because we could doesn’t mean we should.

A CFAV is critically a volunteer and at any point can walk away – as dedicated as we all are, we should not be relied upon – the role doesn’t pay the mortgage, or win favours with the family commitments.
A CFAV also comes with a mixed bag of experience and qualifications. Should someone move on, for whatever reason, “recruiting” for the role to be filled from the pool of CFAVs available could be impossible if asking for a matching list of experience, skills or qualifications as the outgoing person. Thinking of our Squadron Training Officer for instance, the last three have been very different people, with vastly different experience and qualifications.

If you are asking from a personal perspective, feeling overlooked I suggest you consider what is it you can offer and then if the organisation can take full advantage of that skill and exploit it in the correct way.
If using your existing skills is an important part of volunteering to you, then perhaps the organisation isn’t the right platform for you, when all you could be is a useful responsible adult, acting as a ratios balancer who is happy to teach a few lessons every so often…


This is for some at the very hub of the problem.

When we had a adult recruiting campaign one of the groups targeted was teachers. These are one of the groups of people who will have less time to volunteer for things, outside of their working day. Teachers by nature of their profession would have a number of transferable skills, such as passing on knowledge relating to lesson prep and delivery and assessing MOI and if they work locally and in secondary, potential access to things we could use. However on the “lesson” point for some reason known only to people getting paid a small fortune, being a WSO qualifies a WSO who is just a jobbing ATC insructor to assess MOI, over a professional teacher. I know several teachers who have asked to do this and been told no, as they are not WSOs.
I’ve known people who are brickies, chippies, plumbers and sparks on squadron staff, but can’t do alterations to squadron HQs, because they aren’t RFCA contractors and to that end would do a much better job. We had a carpenter on the squadron when I first took over and he did a number of small projects with the cadets, which they thoroughly enjoyed and learnt something useful into the bargain. Bear in mind this was before the ATC discovered risk assessments. Many squadrons keep SOVs going, only because they have staff or CWC who are a dab hand with a spanner and grease gun and they get cadets involved in the work.
Now if the organisation was truly up for valuing its volunteers it wouldn’t let facile and puerile sensitivities that might upset someone who thinks too much of themselves, stand in the way of people wanting to use their skills, knowledge etc across the whole range of things.
But valuing volunteers as we have seen from the survey conducted, HQAC have not got a clue.

By contrast, the people I know in Scouting welcome anyone with a skill, trade or however you would like to term it, doing things. Our local scout hut wouldn’t exist was it not for local people pitching in and if someone has a translatable “skill” similarly welcomed. There doesn’t seem to be any of the rank/position making people better at the job nonsense that the ATC revels in.


Resurrecting a thread here but seems apt to capture my current thoughts.

What does VoV mean to members? At Wing level I’ve seen an emphasis on putting people forward for awards etc but what does it mean o the ACC community individually? Awards to me mean very little.

For my part, it’s the progression of cadets, to see them achieving things that they never thought they could by being willing to try and discovering for themselves that they can accomplish more than they thought possible. To see the “snowball” effect of this over the years, as each activity they engage with further adds to their self belief and confidence forging them into a person that is almost unrecognisable from when they first joined. The value added to the young people in our charge is to me the true value that I feel as a volunteer in this organisation.

Your thoughts?


I have seen this too with awards thrown out like confetti, instead of being meaningful I feel it belittles the award.
For instance I saw a member of staff get a commandants meritorious certificate and the citation read basically they got it for organising a bus to an event, was able to access Bader without help and gain an FMT600!!!

If they really want value staff and give awards then they need to make sure the awards are truly deserving


Valuing would be ensuring that the fact we have lives outside the Air Cadets is respected. Certificates and so on are meaningless. Their OK for primary school kids, but for adults, not so. Experience would dictate that the recipients will be on Christmas card list of those deciding or putting forward for the awards.


Your asking the wrong crowd, half the people here are the sort who would moan if they got a BEM because it’s not an MBE!


Is this not your reasoning for being staff? this is what you enjoy and want to keep doing and it was also what I enjoyed about the corps.

the VoV is a difficult one to describe in what HQAC are doing as I feel it is perhaps incorrectly named and should be more entitled support our volunteers. if you look at what the RC(N) is try to achieve then it is things like admin reduction, changes to help Sqns and staff operate easier that is more support related I think.

How the organisation actually “Values” staff is failing at so many levels but each one I think has different issues which are harder to control.


I agree awards are not the be all and end all but personally some recognition and thanks from those up the chain goes a long way to ensuring motivation. Recently at work I had to put in a lot of extra hours dealing with an emergency that was outside of my normal area. Yes the £150 voucher as a performance bonus was nice, but the handwritten letter from the Director General saying thank you (where you could trek from the contents he had personalised it to what I did) meant far more


Like Hola says something tangible is nice and letters must be handwritten and signed personally.
I don’t really care for honours. As far too many go to people who get them for doing a job and or part of the establishment. Which renders them practically worthless.

At work we have been given a meal for two (£50/head) at local restaurant where we booked went in and signed, cash bonuses, vouchers and hampers, which when you consider we are getting paid is quite nice and although you don’t do it with the eye on a prize, you don’t mind if you are asked to stay on or work at the weekend, because you know it’s a crap time and or the work needs to be done.

I think the culture of taking people who volunteer for granted in the Air Cadets has increased over the last 10 years. I don’t think that there was or is ever any intent to try and value CFAV, as this means doing something where people actually ‘feel the love’ and is best done as a ‘payment’ of some kind, not certificates or letters even if is as suggested. The notion of support is laughable. I know some who have had really tough personal times, asked for help, got none so left. Reducing admin is OK if you don’t reduce it one way, but increase it in another later on. Much of the admin we do is to enable cadets to do things and provide info for others and it is in this area that things increase.
The best way to value us is as I said before respecting and understanding that we are volunteers with busy lives and the Air Cadets is something we fit into our lives and not the other way round. Which means it’s completely up to us to decide what we can do and when, no arbitrary hours per month and not be told / ordered to do things.


Bingo – 1st line

Despite what people say, and contrary to those Staff, typically still to reach 25 who are ex-Cadets “wanting to give something back”, we (CFAVs) do it because we enjoy it.

I don’t believe anyone who says they do it “to give something back” – if you do, then your more generous, more selfless and more desperate than I could ever be. No one would continue to volunteer for something they didn’t enjoy just to “give something back”. It might be a secondary benefit of the CFAV experience, but not their raison d’etre.

And likewise neither do we (CFAVs) do it for recognition. If we did - man that is a looooong game.

How often do we see awards handed out? Typically annually at some Wing event. We could see maybe a dozen Staff recognised…but of those how many just breezed through their volunteering and skim the surface of what it means to be a CFAV?

More likely we hear of the SNCO/Officer who has been involved for 15 years and supported numerous wing teams, be that Drill, radio, shooting, AT, First Aid, Music or other, been an example to Cadets and Staff alike, makes things happen on Squadron and Wing and still has enough energy to attend an Annual Camp a year, or perhaps the CI, who has only been involved for 18 months but has helped turned the Squadron around in difficult times neither of these awards or Certificates come from simply attendance.

And, if we did get such recognition for attendance it firstly shows it’s still the long game (waiting X years for a certificate or CFM – 12 years), but also removes any value of recognition as it becomes an automatic entitlement after X years.

Bingo – 2nd line

With the increase in EWOW we have seen elements (well admin) of what we do become quicker, more accessible and (to a degree) easier. Not necessarily more straightforward or indeed simpler, take Ultilearn exams as a prime example, but certainly we see a greater expectation to react sooner thanks to the immediacy of emails and accessibility of SharePoint and SMS.

So much more of our time as CFAVs is now spent doing electronic compliance. Once upon a time I could take a group of Cadets on a day walk with little more than a nod to Wing that I am going on this route, on this date. Now we have SMS we’re expected to cover our own backs to the nth degree. Each event is considered and treated like this is the first time we’re going, when in truth this is the 10th time in as many years I am going up Cader Idris, or the 4th time this year I am taking Cadets on a Navigation exercise through the local farm tracks and around the woods, or along the local Roman Roads.

Perhaps this is an annual trip to the local aviation museum or our monthly shooting at the TA centre in the next town.

Either way we have to upload to our profile our qualifications (which Wing hold an electronic version anyway when we first qualified), upload a Risk Assessment which hasn’t changed in 10 years, but needs an recent date and signature by someone suitably “trained” in assessing Risk, an admin order to indicate what we aim to do is in line with the Corps’s aims, in some cases request PLI certificates if working with other organisations and request their RA too, and then we get our OC or line manager to tick a box to approve it, and then Wing/the SME WSO to sign it off as kosher.

Since when did the work of a volunteer match that of someone working full time??

This kind of expectation on the Admin burden is a moral destroyer – this time isn’t waiting to be filled, but has to be found, a lunchtime at work, or an hour in the home study not with wife and kids or perhaps a night at Squadron not teaching or engaging with those we serve, all to get this admin completed and uploaded to literally get people to tick a box that agree that I know what I am doing.

Compare what a CFAV is required to do versus that of a Scout leader to achieve the same outcome – a day trip, day walk or overnight camping, or even a sports night at the local playing fields.

Not only is there more for the CFAV to achieve, but such is the expectation that we’ll do it, that the role is taken for granted.

There is so much more expected from a CFAV, forgetting that the RAFAC is not their first priority, but at best third after family and work. The role of volunteer is getting ever more blurred and closer to volunteer in title only. New potential staff overwhelmed with joining paperwork, then a time delay for clearances and approvals before attending. Staff wanting to wear a uniform now expected to pass an RAF selection course to be a glorified youth worker, then required to attend a week’s training on how to be a Uniformed CFAV.

There is little “feeling of love” offered to the volunteer by those who set the hoops we jump through when to achieve what should be our bread and butter events it requires so much more than an interest and competency in the activity but a set of skills unrelated to the event

Certificates, or awards are nice recognition of a commitment, but is only that: recognition. Will I feel more valued because someone felt after 15 years’ service I should get a pat on the back for a job well done by recognition with a Certificate?

I once heard an HQAC member indicate that we (CFAVs) do a great job at what we do and make happy for the kids of today, in spite of the organisation and not because of it – and isn’t that the truth sometimes? Despite the effort and frustration we have to go through to make things happen, the CFAV will want it to happen and, dare I suggest foolishly, the volunteer shrug’s their shoulders, accepts the new expectation and perseveres to make things happen knowing that they, the volunteer, are the only ones who will.

Bingo – 3rd line and house!

I am in a really fortunate position that my current Squadron OC and Staff team recognise what time I can commit, which is not always 100% due to other pressure and interests I have. This is vastly different to other units I have been at. Not to say I have seen persons been called in to the OC’s office, or hauled over the coals for a lack of commitment, but a unheard, unspoken attitude to those who aren’t as willing/committed as others.

Those who do work full time, and command over the the CFAV needs to recognise that we may wear a uniform near identical to those who work full time, but we are not full time, we’re not even part-time.

As much as the EWOW have brought the organisation into a modern way of working, the work load needs to have the right balance for a volunteer to manage.

We should be allowing EWOW to help us work smarter and not harder.

Unfortunately however I feel the balance has shifted to the latter on a selection of key deliverables (again exams/Utlilearn being a prime exam)

How would I feel more valued as a Volunteer??

Put simply: trust me

Trust is a powerful tool as it implies so much, a belief in one’s ability, talent, competence reliability and responsibility.

I am not saying there shouldn’t be due diligence, nor that 25 years’ experience speaks greater volumes than a qualification. But once that qualification is held that I am trusted to run events iaw policy without burdening the volunteer with admin.

The frustration for me is the organisation hasn’t seen any increase in incidents in what we do, yet we see a greater and growing list of controls put in place to stop what isn’t happening from happening.

This has led to an increased burden on the what is expected of the volunteer to achieve the same as they did last week, last month, last year or every year for the last 10.

All of what makes me feel unvalued is of little benefit to the Cadets which for me is the biggest gripe.

The Cadets don’t notice as they still go on the day walk, or still go shooting, or on a museum visit but at what cost to the CFAV?


I had this comment made to me about commitment many years ago, I was pushed out of the door by another CI as he could see I was about to go balistic. Actually the person who made the comment was the OC who was a professional dole claimeant , never worked a day in his life from leaving university to retirement age. One person here knows whom I am talking about.

I walked out and never returned.


Realistically I think that trust is something that cannot be wholly afforded as it can result in some major difficulties down the line. Trust the wrong person and it can all get a bit Pete Tong - I agree it’s a value that should be afforded to some rather than others but to change policy as a whole will open the floodgates to all.

Reduction of certain admin processes is an interesting one - how do we discern that which HQRAFAC/RHQ/WHQ feel we need to comply with (which is open to challenge as it is recognised that Wing/Region policy can sometimes be unecessarily confusing and irrelevant) and that which is forced upon HQRAFAC to ensure that we comply with (MOD requirements etc) - the latter I believe that we have to comply with, unless HQRAFAC lobby otherwise, the former should be influenced by us the volunteer.

Over time I’ve assumed an “expect nothing” mentality as it serves me well in the delivery of objectives - no thanks from superiors? No issue (wasn’t expecting it anyways). No thanks from cadets? No issue (wasn’t expecting it anyways) - however, at this level, I would teach them to value opportunities afforded so that when they become leaders they value their teams appropriately.

To me, that seems a key theme, I would expect an OC to value their staff team as this is the core element of our organisation. The OC should therefore ensure that all “beneath” them are valued (if warranted) - I place “beneath” in quotation simply because of the inherent structure rather than any belief that an OC is superior in any way at all…

Support for the OC I would place with WSC’s doing their utmost to ensure the best for their OC’s, WCO’s for their WSC’s, RCO’s for their WCO’s etc etc.

Expectation vs reality, I know, I know. But I believe the “CoC” should be a support network more than anything else. I have a natural respect for those that I see working as hard or harder than I am and in my mind that is what I expect from the level above me as it firmly reassures me we’re all working toward the same goal.

For me - at this time - I think one of the most substantial ways in which the volunteer could be valued would be to have all permanent staff volunteer at a cadet unit. Why?

  1. They’d work their 8 hours and then attend a cadet until c10pm as we do, and as a result gain an appreciation of #whatwedo.
  2. They’d see the effect of policy at the coal face which would (in my view) be the most effective form of feedback.
  3. As a volunteer I’d know that the people in charge were doing the same thing that I was and feel more aligned as a result.

I need not individual recognition, I need only consistent and informed improvement upon that which we currently offer to effectively deliver and improve upon that which will benefit the young people that we serve.



The optimisim is strong in this one.


I believe <3



In a nutshell.To the point.The above is the main reason I jacked it all in.That and to a lesser degree the VA .


What floodgates?

We can’t do sod all without a bit if paper saying we can and no bits of paper no can do, so I can’t see these floodgates that are going to open and all of a sudden people doing all manner of rash things. If this is the perception of people up the chain, they are more stupid than I could imagine.

I don’t recall the level of oversight in my early days of being staff or even a cadet, that there is now, and I would challenge people to find anything much worse in the past than may have happened compared to now? We have this oversight now not because it is necessary, but because they can due to things being electronic. Could you imagine pre-electronic days trying to marry people up with records and so on, hence people were trusted and unfortunately for those who seem to think it was people carrying and doing things willy nilly … it wasn’t. No mass deaths or injuries. Cadets got injured like they do now with RAs, qualified staff et al. Does not the irony strike anyone that much of this additional oversight and lack of trust has come in since we’ve had an adminner at the helm? I can’t think of anywhere else, where someone whose job has been doing administration running businesses, so why is it deemed acceptable for a youth organisation, especially one where its and its parent organisation’s USP is flying? Which CAS was an adminner as their primary job in the RAF? If so I stand to be corrected.

How many of are trusted with other people’s children and entrust our children with others? Do we or they endanger them? These people are invariably family / friends / neighbours. We and they don’t ask for a whole raft of paperwork and if anyone did, they would find themselves off the list.

We need pragmatism not dogmatism.


Why might I ask do we have the wrong person in a position where that trust can be handed out??

If someone cannot be trusted - don’t trust them.

Back in the day I could take Cadets on a day walk with little more than local knowledge of the area.

Then it was decided that I needed a suitabke qualification. So one was achieved.

Nowadays I need an SMS application with half a dozen sides of A4 written and uploaded to it.

The risks on that walk haven’t changed. The controls on those risks have only changed to require a qualified person yet the authorisation to do so is now no longer a nod from the OC but a few hours preparing an SMS application for a tick box.

Personally I completed a Wing run BEL course and our Wing AT Officer was pleased to award me with the handshake once the assessment was complete.

Yet to get a tick box from him I also need to complete SMS applications to prove to him what he already knows.

If he doesn’t trust me to behave and stick to the rules why was I awarded a BELA?

Why can’t the OC decide if it’s a yes or no?
And if it’s because the OC can’t be trusted…1 why are they in post? 2- put restriction on what they can approve. Anything but activities X, Y and AT…
Please go straight to the SME/Wing Officer.

I talk about a day walk in this case bit I could substitute for a shooting example or running a first aid or radio course, or even a day trip to a museum.

The risks haven’t changed yet the control measures increase and with each one burdening the volunteer with more admin which doesn’t change the experience (no Cadet benefit) nor reduce the risks.

Why does all the extra Admin and burden help or make an event safer?
Writing a RA doesn’t make an event kosher. It still reqiires the CFAV to follow it.
Of the incidents that occur in the organisation how many are a result of not following the procedures or RA?

Just because the SMS is correct with a small essay of paperwork doesn’t make it safer…it still requires trust that the CFAV will actually follow the intended plan.

If we trust them to follow the SMS plan what is stopping them being trusted in the first place???


My thoughts exactly. The activity approval VoV team is on the same lines too…


So, before, you never wrote a risk assessment or gave out a set of JIs, or planned the route on a map?