Army training scheme for long-term unemployed may be extended


The Guardian

Scheme piloted in Telford and Stoke can raise awareness of army reserve and make people more employable, says officer.

A pilot scheme in which long-term unemployed people take part in a month-long training programme run by the army could be rolled out nationally after it caught the attention of ministers, according to the army’s website.

The pilot project, which is “aimed at building self-esteem and skills”, has been completed by 31 people in two towns in the West Midlands, producing “excellent results”, according to the army.

Of 18 volunteers in Telford, 10 have subsequently applied to join the army reserve, and of 13 participants in Stoke-on-Trent, three have applied to join the regular army, four to join the army reserve and one to become a reserve officer.

Other areas identified for similar projects are Wolverhampton, Coventry and Walsall in the West Midlands.

The military has been stepping up other efforts to encourage jobless people to enlist. At the start of the year it launched a campaign called More than Meets the Eye with a series of recruitment clinics at jobcentres.

Thousands of regular soldiers are being made redundant under cost-cutting plans by the Ministry of Defence, which envisages the army of the future being much more reliant on reserves.

The Spear (Supporting People into Employment with the Army Reserve) programme is run in partnership with Jobcentre Plus, Job Enterprise Training, Stoke College and Telford College of Arts and Technology.

It was first piloted before Christmas and then run again in April, and has “caught the attention of government ministers and could be rolled out across the UK”, according to the army website.

Ray Miller, a community engagement officer with the army’s 143 (West Midlands) Brigade, said: “Midlands Spear has again showed it has true potential to not only raise awareness of the army reserve and encourage recruitment but also to make people more employable. The students have all come away more motivated and better equipped for the workplace.”

Other regional brigades are looking at running similar programmes this summer, according to the Ministry of Defence. An MoD spokesperson said the defence secretary, Philip Hammond, was aware of the West Midlands programme.

Spear participants spend two weeks attending army reserve units and learning workplace-recognised skills in a military environment, including “team building and motivation, health and safety and plant/power tools safe operation and workplace first aid”.

The third week is a work placement provided by Jobcentre Plus and Job Enterprise Training, and in the final week participants concentrate on “IT skills, CV building and interview techniques”.

Aside from military employment, one participant has been offered a five-year apprenticeship and two have had job offers in Stoke.

Alex Cunningham, a Labour MP who has campaigned against the recruitment of child soldiers and who served on the parliamentary committee that oversaw the 2011 Armed Forces Act, said he would have concerns about how programmes like Spear could evolve in future, particularly if an element of compulsion was introduced.

“It worries me. It may be all very well that some people get support which helps them into employment. But I have some reservations about the army going into jobcentres and unemployment people feeling that they were being pushed into the army forces because there was no other opportunities for them,” he said.

Cunningham said he would be particularly anxious if any benefits were ever linked in any way to military training.

• Are you a jobseeker who has had experience of army recruitment clinics in jobcentres? If so, we’d like to hear about your experiences.


See more: recruitment,