UK Armed Forces Recruitment Challenge

February 1, 2019

The UK Armed Forces is in the midst of a recruitment crisis – they are experiencing the biggest staffing shortfall in a decade. A National Audit Office report (April 2018) found that there is a staffing deficit of 5.7% (8,200 people), and with recruitment running below target the situation is not likely to resolve itself without immediate action.

A report released in July 2017 by former Armed Forces Minister Mark Francois MP examined the state of recruitment, explored the challenges of recruiting in today’s job market, and gave some recommendations for overcoming these challenges.

Some of the key obstacles to recruitment to the Armed Forces were:

- Low unemployment level in the UK creating market challenges for the Forces

- An increased take up of post-16 education

- An increase in the level of obesity in the UK

The report also noted that a change in requirements for Commonwealth citizens had led to a significant reduction in recruits. The 5-year residence requirement had been waived for Commonwealth citizens from 1998 and the British Armed Forces currently employ around 4,500 Commonwealth citizens under this arrangement. This special arrangement was terminated in 2013. In 2016, the MoD waived residence requirements again but only for 200 Commonwealth citizens and received over 13,000 applications. In a bid to tackle the current shortfall the MoD have announced that they will extend this cap to 1,350 in 2018 - 1,000 will be hired by the Army, 300 by the Aavy and 50 by the RAF.

Women in the Armed Forces

One positive to come out of the report was regarding the level of recruitment of women. Females currently make up 10.2% of the Regular Armed Forces and 14% of the Reserves. The MOD has set a target of 15% of all recruits to be women by 2020 (currently 9.4%) which is on track to be met, and in fact has already been exceeded by the RAF who had 15.4% female recruits in 2017.

Recent removal of the ban on women in the Special Forces, making all roles in the Armed Forces open to female candidates, has garnered much media attention in the UK which is likely to boost recruitment for women in the future.

In addition to removing the restrictions on women in combat roles, the MOD is introducing a Flexible Engagement System (FES) on 01 April 2019 in a bid to attract more women to the Forces. The FES will allow regular personnel to work part-time (3 or 4 day work week) and restrict their separation from home base to no more than 35 days per year.

With this in mind, the report calls for a new goal to be set - for 20% of recruits being female by 2025. Considering the current staffing shortfall should this be more ambitious?

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