RFCA chairman David Rhodes reviews the first six months of 2021/22 and highlights some of the RFCA’s key successes.
Welcome to the RFCA for Yorkshire and the Humber’s Autumn Report 2021.
During this report, we reflect on what the RFCA achieved in the first six months of 2021/22, capturing some of the organisation’s major outputs on behalf of our cadet and reserve forces.
More than anything, the first half of the year was characterised by an accelerated return to face-to-face activities with many cadets and reserves enjoying much improved facilities thanks to work carried out by the RFCA at cadet and reserve centres across the region.
Cadets in Harrogate, Beverley, Keighley, Leeds and Barton-upon-Humber all resumed in-person training in either new or vastly refurbished premises that gave them access to new facilities such as interactive whiteboards and, in the case of Harrogate, a fantastic new Aviation Centre, currently still under development , that will give air cadets across the region virtual-reality taste of flying
Our community and employer engagement activities also returned as in-person rather than online events. The RFCA took the key role in representing cadets at the Great Yorkshire Show and staged ceremonies to honour outstanding volunteers on behalf of Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenants of North, South and West Yorkshire together with the East Riding of Yorkshire. These are important annual events which are highly valued by each of the region’s four Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenants as a way of showcasing the high regard in which they hold cadets, reserves and cadet force adult volunteers.
One of the RFCA’s biggest achievements during the period was the record number of employers it encouraged to pledge support for the military by signing up to the Armed Forces Covenant. It also supported more of our employers than ever before to achieve top Silver and Gold Awards in the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) which acknowledges the role great employers play in supporting reserves, cadets force adult volunteers and veterans in the workplace.
As autumn moves into winter, the RFCA will be hosting two of its headlining events of the year – the ERS Silver Awards ceremony in York in November and the Gold Awards which we will be staging in collaboration with two neighbouring RFCAs in Leeds, also in November. Needless to say, preparations for these are well under way and we hope they will be worthy celebrations of all our employers have achieved on behalf of the military over these past months.
Supporting our region's cadets
What the RFCA did to support cadets
We managed and developed the buildings that are home to army and air cadets
Army and air cadets in Beverley and Harrogate and air cadets in Leeds were all able to resume in-person training in massively refurbished cadet centres thanks to projects by the RFCA. The army cadets in Barton-upon-Humber returned to an entirely new cadet centre which replaced their old, outdated one less than a mile away.
Army and air Cadets in Beverley can now enjoy a sparkling new base at Wolfe Armoury thanks to a £250,000 redevelopment by the RFCA. Both the army and air cadets share the drill hall and catering facilities but have their own classrooms, complete with interactive whiteboards. Cadet adult volunteer Hannah Cook said: “We love being here. It feels like we’re beginning a new chapter for the unit and it’s an exciting time.”
The RFCA’s £750,000 refurbishment of Harrogate Joint Cadet Centre has paved the way to the creation of the region’s first virtual reality aviation centre. The centre, which will be one of the biggest in the UK, will give cadets a remarkably realistic experience of flying. It is the brainchild of the Air Cadets’ Central and East Yorkshire Wing’s aviation officer Adam Waudby, who is pictured, right, with commanding officer of 58 (Harrogate Squadron) Clare Crebbin.
Cadets at 168 (City of Leeds) Squadron returned to a fantastic refurbished cadet hut after a £130,000 scheme paid for by the Air Cadets and delivered by the RFCA. The development turned a shabby old centre into a flexible, multi-purpose space which can serve as a drill hall, shooting range and classroom. Pictured is commanding officer Kevin Stead delivering lessons to cadets in the much-improved space.
We recruited cadet force adult volunteers and organised annual camps
The RFCA has 14 staff working out of Humberside and South Yorkshire Army Cadet Force’s (ACF) Driffield headquarters and a further 13 working out of Yorkshire (North and West) ACF’s Strensall headquarters. They provide the army cadets with essential expert support in recruitment in addition to the organisation of weekend and annual training camps.
A recruitment drive by the RFCA resulted in more than 50 more cadet force adult volunteers for the region’s two army cadet forces (ACF). But, says RFCA cadet administrative assistant Andy Marshall, pictured, recruitment is a collaboration between the RFCA and existing volunteers. “In many ways people like myself who work full-time for the RFCA together with being long-standing cadet force adult volunteers show just how close the collaboration can be.”
The RFCA put in place arrangements to ensure army cadets across the region could enjoy annual camp, despite the uncertainties surrounding Covid restrictions. Cadets from Humberside and South Yorkshire Army Cadet Force took part in shorter camps with smaller numbers of cadets, but still had access to a wide range of activities from the Driffield headquarters. In Yorkshire (North and West) Army Cadet Force, cadets could attend activity days to give them a taste of camp without overnight stays.
We promoted the value of the cadet experience
One of the RFCA’s key roles is to promote the value of the cadet forces to both young people and adults who may wish to volunteer. During the period, we maintained ongoing engagement on behalf of the region’s cadet forces across our channels – including our website and social media platforms, provided a strong presence at community events and hosted four annual award ceremonies on behalf of the region’s Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenants.
The RFCA attracted visitors young and old to its presence in the military village at the Great Yorkshire Show. The RFCA’s own staff were supported by cadet force adult volunteers and cadets from the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) at Astrea Academy Dearne. One of the cadets had the opportunity to be introduced to HRH Prince Charles during his tour of the show.
The RFCA arranged for new cadet Caitlyn Keddy to be introduced to HRH Prince Charles at the Great Yorkshire Show – helping to raise the profile of cadets at the highest levels together with creating an unforgettable experience for Caitlyn herself. HM Lord-Lieutenants Cadets for North Yorkshire also accompanied the royal around the show alongside HM Lord-Lieutenant of North Yorkshire herself, Mrs Jo Ropner.
The RFCA hosted four award ceremonies to give each of the region’s HM Lord-Lieutenants the opportunity to honour outstanding cadets, reservists and adult volunteers in their counties. Each of the ceremonies was in-person and carried out in line with Ministry of Defence guidelines. The RFCA filmed speeches by the cadets in advance and published on social media, reaching on average 2,000 people for each ceremony.
The RFCA continued to fund the Cadet Review which is produced and distributed by the RFCA to units quarterly. The publication covers the activities of each of the three cadet forces across the region.
Serving our region's reserves
What the RFCA did for reserves
We managed and maintained the reserve estate
During the first six months of 2021/22, we continued to strive to keep the reserve estate in the best possible condition for our reserve soldiers to work and train in. However, some projects within our planned programme of work are currently suspended due to the on-going volatility in labour costs. The RFCA is considering next steps with these projects whose costs are now considerably higher than initial estimates
The roof over the historic drill hall at Huddersfield Army Reserve Centre continued to be a major, on-going project for the RFCA as it strived to ensure the centre remained watertight for the reserves from 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment who train there. Pictured is 4 YORKS’ Private Ellie Schofield, aged 21, who is a personal trainer as well as a reserve based in Huddersfield.
The RFCA delivered a £20,000 project to replace a roof at Batley’s Army Reserve Centre. Other projects carried out by the RFCA during the period included the renovation of a catering store at Churchill Barracks in Leeds and early preparations for the transfer of reserves from Sheffield’s Somme Barracks to Endcliffe Hall by next summer.
We promoted the role of reserves among businesses and communities
During the first six months, we showcased the role of reserves in the the region via our communications channels with employers and the wider community, supporting major national initiatives such as Reserves Day and Armed Forces Week in addition to support for the Armed Forces Covenant and participation in the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme.
We improved understanding of and interest in the role of reserves in the community by featuring positive stories on our website, newsletters and social media channels. Bricklayer Samantha Dickson’s success in becoming 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment’s first female reserve infantry soldier was one of several pieces of content that underlined the role of reserves during the period.
In addition to events to honour Yorkshire and the Humber’s top cadets, the region’s four Lord-Lieutenant Awards ceremonies, organised by the RFCA, were an opportunity to pay tribute to military volunteers – cadet force adult volunteers and reserves. Pictured is reserve Major Aimee Charnell, A Squadron, 212 Field Hospital, meeting Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of West Yorkshire Mr Ed Anderson ahead of being presented with her award.
Supporting employers to become forces-friendly
What the RFCA did to encourage forces-friendly employers
We inspired more than 70 new companies to sign the Armed Forces Covenant
During the period, more than 70 companies from the smallest one-man band to the large, multi-site concern to sign up to the Armed Forces Covenant, pledging to treat the military with fairness. Signing the Armed Forces Covenant is then important first step for employers who then choose to become more proactive in their support for the forces by taking part in the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme.
The Yorkshire Agricultural Society chose the first day of this year’s Great Yorkshire Show to strengthen its support for the military by signing the Armed Forces Covenant. Show Director Charles Mills, pictured, said: “The military has provided an important element of the Great Yorkshire Show for many years now and we are delighted to support their presence here not least because our visitors enjoy looking around their stands.”
To mark Reserves Day, the RFCA for Yorkshire and the Humber hosted a virtual Armed Forces Covenant signing ceremony with guest speaker, naval regional commander for Northern England and the Isle of Man, Commodore Phil Waterhouse. Among those who signed up to the covenant at the ceremony was York-based VetPartners whose chief executive Jo Malone is pictured.
The RFCA arranged for naval regional commander for Northern England and the Isle of Man, Commodore Phil Waterhouse, left, to speak at a business networking event at Sheffield Cathedral at which the cathedral’s acting dean Geoffrey Harbord, pictured centre, re-signed the Armed Forces Covenant.
We helped a record number of organisations to win Gold and Silver Awards
The RFCA provided bespoke support to organisations needing advice or guidance on how they could participate and progress to Gold and Silver Awards under the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme.
Engineering company NG Bailey was among eight employers from the region that won the highest possible award possible for their support for the military – a Defence Employer Recognition Scheme Gold Award. The firm’s head of human resources, Julie Verity, is pictured and representatives from the firm will be among those attending a special event in honour of their award later this autumn. A further 16 organisations won Silver Awards.
We nurtured our relationships with employers on behalf of the military
As the permanent ambassador for the military in the region, we maintained and deepened our relationships with business and employer communities across the region.
The RFCA developed and published its first regular newsletter for supportive employers during the period. The newsletter was produced by regional employer engagement director Pauline King and head of engagement Phil Walton is pictured here carrying out last minute checks before the newsletter was sent to hundreds of businesses and organisations across the region.
The RFCA joined forces with City of York Council and York St John University to raise awareness of the Armed Forces Covenant at a special networking event at which new companies such as Click Digital Solutions and Gimlet Associates Limited chose to sign up to the covenant.
Maintaining safe and well-maintained workplaces for cadets and reserves
What we did to keep our estate safe and well maintained
We carried out hundreds of checks to make sure our buildings are safe
The RFCA ensured that all legal tests were carried out on more than 2,5000 items needing regular attention during the period. This included fire alarms, emergency lighting, boilers and, CCTV. We also ensured we had all relevant legal documentation which could be made available to units on request.
The RFCA stores all the legal documentation related to safety checks carried out on equipment. During the period it continued to develop a new, computerised document-sharing service which will allow contractors to directly upload documentation themselves and for units to download it when they need to. The RFCA’s estates officer Mandy Jepson is pictured teaching a contractor how to use the system due for launch shortly.
RFCA storeman Mel Dawkins is responsible for carrying out fire extinguisher checks on the Army Cadet Force and Air Cadet centres across the region and completed all those needed in the north and west of the region during the period. He also carries out legionella tests across the entire reserve and cadet estate. In total the RFCA and its contractors carried out more than 1,300 tests during the period.
We carried out repairs for units across the estate
The RFCA and its contractors carried out nearly 700 repairs during the first six months of the 2021/22 and achieved 99 per cent satisfaction rates.
As well as steering major development projects across the region, Ian Thompson is also one of the two RFCA surveyors who are behind many of the larger repair and maintenance works. One of his most recent projects was to assess a fault to a gas pipe at Carlton Barracks in Leeds and to organise contractors to carry out repairs before any wider damage could occur.
We worked to meet the challenges of the future
In its management of the reserve and cadet estate, the RFCA worked to identify and address some of the challenges of the future, including tackling the need for greener ways of working.
The RFCA took one of its most visible first steps towards embracing greener credentials during the first six months of 2021/22 by beginning its switch towards an electric fleet of vehicles. Deputy chief executive Wayne Pledger, right, was the first to be given use of a partially electric-powered vehicle and was able to ‘refuel’ it at newly fitted electrical charging points at the RFCA’s headquarters in York. He is pictured with head of estates Ian Hardbattle, left.
Gearing up for the months ahead
What we did to gear up for the future
We introduced 'hybrid' working with staff returning to their offices
As the guidance to work from home was lifted, the RFCA introduced a new hybrid approach which enabled staff to work part of the week from the office and the other part from home. This approach was adopted following consultations with RFCA staff and will be reviewed at the end of the year.
Staff from RFCA headquarters took part in a morning of team-building following their return to office working in August. The event was designed to promote in-person collaboration after more than a year of staff working mainly from home.
We welcomed new members of staff and existing staff moving into new positions
During the period, the RFCA was happy to welcome several new members of staff onto its team in addition to promoting the former health and safety officer Ian Hardbattle into the position of head of estates.
Graham Baker joined the RFCA in August as the compliance officer, taking over responsibility for health and safety from Ian Hardbattle who was promoted to head of estates. Graham was formerly army force protection officer in the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers based at Strensall in York.
Ellie Jones joined the RFCA as youth and cadets’ administration officer in July. She reports directly to chief executive Jason Wright. Before joining the RFCA, Ellie was site manager for English Heritage. She has a degree in film production and is a keen writer.
Alex Summers joined the RFCA in September as our new schools cadet expansion officer, whose role is to support schools interested in developing a combined cadet force for their pupils. In her free time, Alex has been a cadet force adult volunteer for nearly seven years with Humberside and South Yorkshire Army Cadet Force.
Annie Sutton joined the RFCA as an administration officer for Humberside and South Yorkshire Army Cadet Force and is based in Driffield. She carries out all aspects of Army Cadet Force administration, but is particularly involved in enrolment. Before joining the RFCA, she worked in a finance company in Buckinghamshire