RFCA for Yorkshire and the Humber's chair David Rhodes reviews the first half of 2022/23
Time has flown by and once again we approach the end of another busy year for the RFCA, both nationally and regionally.
We have continued to provide significant support to our reservists around the county in terms of infrastructure support and in particular in the recent deployment to Oman by a 4YORKS-led multi-cap-badged sub-unit. Reservist recruiting and retention is once again going through one of its down-cycles and although this is very much commanding officers’ business, indeed that of leaders at all levels, it is becoming increasing unclear who is responsible for improving the situation, and this may now have to be an area where we should look to offer our support once again.
Cadets however are very much thriving, with most, if not all detachments, with youngsters on waiting lists. Please take a moment to read through the details of the many projects we have been involved in this year supporting our cadets. The recruiting of adult volunteers continues to be the critical path to increasing cadet numbers – we have been active in this area but we need to work out how to do more.
Our employer engagement is also thriving. We have held two hugely successful recognition scheme award events over the autumn, and with the total national number of employers signed up to the Armed Forces Covenant now over 10,000, we are very much playing our part in the region. We now need to decide how best to support all these existing employers as well as continue to recruit new employers. In the new year we will be introducing Employers Forums, alongside our existing Reserve and Cadet Forums, to help facilitate this.
Pressures on estate team
Regionally, it has been business as usual for the RFCA. We are meeting our outputs and tasks and we have strong financial reserves to aid this. That said, we continue to overheat our estates team, and this – rather than finances – dictates our timelines for starting and completing our many and varied betterment projects. We continue to recruit new staff into this team and hopefully we can get back onto a sound footing soon.
Nationally, the RFCA Reform Project continues, with most of the recommendations of the Sullivan Report which sat with the Associations now completed. The key MOD aspiration to merge the thirteen associations into one has yet to be allocated the necessary parliamentary time for the primary legislation required, with only the final fourth – and very busy – session left to achieve this. If time is found, then the associations will merge in April 2024 – the same date at which our Scheme of Association is due to be reviewed and updated. Accordingly, the board has brought forward a new scheme for members to vote upon now, in case the merger does not take place. Once again, the MOD are also looking to place the facilities management of the volunteer estate with commercial contractors rather than with the Associations. If this goes ahead, it will also take place in April 2024. Your board continues to resist this on behalf of the region at the national level, and I hope that we will prevail.
Once again I’d like to thank members generally for their support, and more specifically those that offer their time to serve on the board and its committees. We could not do this without you. Thank you.
Supporting the region's cadets
Supporting cadets and adults volunteers
Through our professional support staff, we provided vital back-office support to the region's Army Cadet Forces.
We created a new IT suite in Strensall
Cadets and adult volunteers attending weekend and summer camps in Yorkshire now have access to the very best computerised learning, thanks to a £20,000 investment by the RFCA. Before, the only computers available at Yorkshire (North and West) ACF’s Strensall headquarters were so old and out of date that they were virtually unusable. But now 15 computers with the latest software have been installed and are pictured with RFCA professional support staff member Graeme Elstob.
We put payments by parents online
Parents of cadets in Yorkshire (North and West) ACF are the first in the country to be able to pay for their child’s cadet activities online. RFCA professional support administration officer Becky Wathey (pictured) worked with detachments across the county to help them set up ParentPay accounts which enable parents to pay for Duke of Edinburgh’s Award activities, weekend camps and summer camps online.
We made payments quick and easy for adult volunteers
Buying a drink or snack has never been easier for cadet force adult volunteers on annual camp in Strensall, York. That’s because the RFCA’s professional support staff at the Cadet Training Centre there have introduced a new, contactless system to replace cash payments. The new development is proving a hit with both adult volunteers buying food and drinks as well as those whose job it is to sell them, including Joan Speight, pictured left. With her is fellow volunteer Mick Bell, right, with RFCA cadet executive officer Tom Woodall looking on.
Our professional support staff provided the logistical support to ensure cadets had experiences they would remember a lifetime.
We organised the first overseas trip for cadets since Covid
Thirty-six senior cadets from Humberside and South Yorkshire Army Cadet Force (ACF) and Yorkshire (North and West) ACF – together with 14 adult instructors – travelled to Cyprus over the Easter holidays for a camp that was organised by the RFCA’s professional support staff. Cadets enjoyed activities including range shooting, visits around the island, watersports at the local beach and a helicopter search and rescue experience. They were joined by Honorary Colonel Simon Banks-Cooper, pictured.
We provided everything cadets needed for a fantastic summer camp
Our professional support staff provided everything cadets needed for a great week (or two) of summer activities at both Driffield and Strensall. Whether it was arranging transport to and from days out to adventure training centres, providing comfortable bedding or supplying food for hundreds of cadets and volunteers, the RFCA’s professional support staff provided the vital logistical support to ensure hundreds of Army cadets across Yorkshire and the Humber had a camp to remember.
We stepped up when unexpected challenges arose
When Humberside and South Yorkshire ACF’s summer camp for 350 cadets came within a hair’s breadth of cancellation, the RFCA’s Bert Burton and his team stepped in to save the day. The cadets had been due to go to Wathgill Camp near Richmond but the Regular Army needed the area to train Ukrainian troops. So with weeks to go, the RFCA relocated the camp to the ACF’s Driffield headquarters – sourcing tents and bedding from units across the UK to accommodate everyone.
We promoted the unique opportunities being a cadet can offer young people across the region.
We showcased the inclusivity of cadets in a new promotional video
The RFCA premiered its latest video showcasing what the Sea Cadets, Army Cadets and Air Cadets have to offer young people at this year’s His Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant Award Ceremonies. The video can be viewed here.
We supported the Army Cadets to showcase their skills to employers
The RFCA paid for a the production of a video by Humberside and South Yorkshire Army Cadet Force which highlighted the employability of cadets. The video was the brainchild of Honorary Colonel Simon Banks-Cooper and can be viewed here.
We achieved worldwide coverage with a story about Cadet Ashanti Mai
The RFCA issued a story to the media about the meteoric rise of cadet Ashanti Mai to the role of Cadet Regimental Sergeant Major and it was covered by outlets from Canada to the Far East, Ireland and UK – with more than 100 million views across a range of channels.
We gave visitors to the Great Yorkshire Show a flavour of life in the cadets
The RFCA promoted membership of the cadet forces during four days at the Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate. Supported by cadets from the region, we engaged with young visitors and their parents at our tent in the military village.
We hosted cadet award ceremonies on behalf of the region's Lord-Lieutenants
The RFCA organised four prestigious ceremonies at which the region’s His Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenants appointed outstanding cadets as their Lord-Lieutenant Cadets for the year. Appointment to the role is the highest achievement possible for a cadet. Pictured is Lord-Lieutenant of West Yorkshire Ed Anderson with cadet Florence Shaw.
We worked to ensure cadets have great places to train and learn
We developed plans for new classrooms for cadets
The RFCA is ready to apply for planning permission to replace two aging conservatories with more classroom space for cadets. Yorkshire and the Humber’s two Cadet Training Centres – at Strensall and Driffield – both have aging conservatories that are prone to leaks. The plan is to replace them with traditionally-built classrooms.
We developed plans for a new cadet centre in Sheffield
RFCA surveyor Anne Elder has been working with the RAF Air Cadets to develop a new cadet centre in Sheffield. She and commanding officer of 370 (North Sheffield) Squadron Paul Stringer have been collaborating on plans to replace one of the oldest cadet buildings in Yorkshire and the Humber – a 1940s hut in the grounds of Southey Green School.
We hosted official opening of Harrogate's refurbished cadet centre
The RFCA hosted the official opening of Harrogate’s Joint Cadet Centre following its £750,000 refurbishment of the historic drill hall. The centre, opened by His Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of North Yorkshire Jo Ropner, is home to the town’s Army and Air Cadets as well the region’s first virtual reality cadet aviation centre.
Supporting our region's reserve soldiers
Supporting our reserves
We helped enable our reserves to deploy on operations
The RFCA’s employer engagement team were on hand to advise employers whose staff were among forty reserves from the region who deployed to the Middle East in September. The reserves, pictured during pre-deployment training in Otterburn, joined the Royal Army of Oman in training exercises with the RFCA providing advice to employers about support available to them.
We hosted ceremonies so our Lord-Lieutenants could honour reserves
During the special ceremonies the RFCA organised on behalf of the region’s Lord-Lieutenants, the Lord-Lieutenants were able to pay special tribute to outstanding reserves from all three services. Pictured is His Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of North Yorkshire Jo Ropner with reservist Corporal Yankuba Sawo of 607 (County of Durham) Squadron, based at RAF Leeming.
We ensured our reserve estate were venues to be proud of
With our programme of on-going upgrades, repairs and renovations, we ensured our reserve centres remained great places to work and train as well as venues the military is proud to host community events. Huddersfield’s historic drill hall, pictured, was chosen as the venue of a community day of remembrance which paid special tribute to the role of Sikh soldiers during the world wars. This was only possible due to the significant and on-going works the RFCA continues to carry out, particularly to the roof of the building.
Supporting the region's employers to be forces-friendly
Supporting employers to be forces-friendly
We inspired employers to sign up to the Armed Forces Covenant
The RFCA’s employer engagement team encouraged 55 employers across Yorkshire and the Humber to sign up to the Armed Forces Covenant, pledging to treat the military and former military fairly. Pictured left are representatives of Venari Group, Brighouse, which manufactures emergency vehicles.
We honoured top forces-friendly employers in a glittering awards ceremony
We staged a prestigious event attended by all four of the region’s His Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenants to honour 17 employers, including commercial companies, NHS bodies and a college, who were all first-time winners of prestigious Silver Awards under the Government’s Defence Employer Recognition Scheme. A further nine organisations had their existing Silver Awards revalidated.
We helped forces-friendly employers win prestigious Gold Awards
The RFCA for Yorkshire and the Humber joined forces with its counterpart in the North of England to stage a prestigious Gold Award event at the Royal Gun Salute in York. The event was attended by five HM Lord-Lieutenants as well as Chief of Defence People, Lieutenant General James Swift, who joined HM Lord-Lieutenant of North Yorkshire Jo Ropner who made the presentations to 14 outstanding employers for their support to the military. From Yorkshire and the Humber, four employers won the top award under the Government’s Defence Employer Recognition Scheme: ERS Medical, Green Task Force Ltd, Sheffield City Council and Hull City Council.
Gearing up for the challenges ahead
Gearing up to meet the challenges ahead
We expanded our team of surveyors
With the arrival of surveyor Anne Elder, pictured right, the RFCA expanded its surveying team. Anne looks after all buildings in the south of the region while surveyor Lee Jones, pictured left, is responsible for those in the north. Ian Thompson, centre, is responsible for the RFCA’s response to the Reserve Estate Optimisation programme, a tri-service project to ensure all 13 of the UK’s RFCA manage their estates in the best way possible.
We supported efforts to get best value for money in managing our estate
The RFCA’s head of estates Ian Hardbattle joined his counterparts from the UK’s other 12 RFCAs to support a review into the way the reserve estate is managed. The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) which manages the regular estate, has embraced new ways of working under its Future Defence Infrastructure Services Programme (FDIS). Under this, it has appointed single contractors to deliver all estate management services within each of four UK ‘super regions’. Ian is supporting its current efforts to explore the possibility of extending a variation of this approach to the reserve estate.
We made sure we were up to date with national strategy
Members and staff from the RFCA were among attendees at the first Council of RFCAs annual conference where they were able to hear senior figures from the military and cadet movement outline some of the key challenges and issues ahead. Speakers included chief of the defence staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin who set out his vision for the future of reserves. There were also interactive sessions on diversity and inclusion and the RFCAs’ contribution to the cadets.
We ensured our staff understand issues of diversity and inclusion
The RFCA’s human resources support staged a series of special workshops to ensure all staff have an in-depth understanding of issues related to diversity and inclusion. As part of the initiative, chairman of the RFCA for Yorkshire and the Humber David Rhodes, pictured, also wrote to members to ensure they had a good understanding about how such issues impact their work with the association.