The Ministry of Defence annual figures on the number of cadets and adult volunteers in its Cadet Forces show differences in recruitment and retention between Community Cadets and Combined Cadet Forces.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused severe disruption to the Cadet Forces. In-line with government direction, normal cadet activity has been limited and Adult Volunteers have worked hard to deliver training virtually during periods of lockdown. When a relaxation of restrictions has been possible, the Cadet Forces have been making cautious but progressive returns to face-to-face cadet activity.
The MOD sponsors and supports five Cadet Forces (voluntary youth organisations). They comprise of the Community Cadets (Sea Cadet Corps, Volunteer Cadet Corps, Army Cadet Force and Air Training Corps) and the school-based Combined Cadet Force, whose contingents contain one or more sections from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army or Royal Air Force.
All the Cadet Forces provide young people with interesting and challenging activities as part of a stimulating syllabus that develops valuable life skills. In addition, the Cadet Forces encourage young people to take an interest in Defence and the Armed Forces and, for those considering careers in the Services, shows them the various opportunities that exist.
The Cadet Forces are not part of the Armed Forces, and members of the Cadet Forces do not have any liability for military service or compulsory training in the Armed Forces (Regular or Reserve). The Cadet Forces are not conduits for entry into the Armed Forces – this position is clearly stated in the UK’s commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The figures show age and gender breakdowns of the cadets, and gender breakdowns of the adult volunteers, for each of the Cadet Forces from April 2020 to April 2021. The MOD has recorded a 13% drop in the number of community cadets. The Combined Cadet Force cadet numbers have held steady by comparison, and have actually increased by 2%.
The number of adult volunteers has been recorded as dropping only in single digits, despite long periods of relative inactivity and a high likelihood that some adults’ circumstances have changed due to the impact of covid-19.
The impact of COVID-19 lockdowns on cadet and Adult Volunteer numbers has varied across Cadet Forces but they all have struggled to maintain normal levels of recruitment. This is reflected in the figures presented in this publication. The true impact of COVID-19 will not be known until later in the year once normal cadet activity has been re-established, and this will be reflected the next publication in May 2022.