The Royal Canadian Navy has launched a new program to help address a shortage of sailors.
It’s offering recruits a one-year contract to try out a career in the military with no strings attached. They’ll experience navy life at home bases in Nova Scotia and British Columbia.
A captain who helps oversee the Canadian Armed Forces’ Maritime Pacific Operations says the initiative is off to a strong start.
“So far the interest is great,” says Jean Stéphane Ouellet. “We have 204 files that are open and those files are going through the recruitment process, which we’re hoping is going to be streamlined.”
He says the aim is to cut down on the time it takes to bring sailors into the profession. The program is carried out in three phases, starting with eight weeks of basic military training and four weeks of naval training.
The recruit will then join fleets in Nova Scotia or British Columbia.
“Members will go to sea, they’ll be able to job shadow and will be able to tour the bases and the city,” explains Ouellet.
Some, however, are critical of the new program. Ken Hansen is a former Navy commander and researcher.
“I really think that taking that amount of time to try and entice people is not going to be as effective as a program where their university is paid for and they get to spend their summers doing the familiarization part and the experiential part.”
The editor of the Esprit de Corps Canadian military magazine says he supports innovative approaches to overcoming the worker shortage, but he’s worried the new initiative could create tensions with members who are locked into longer contracts.
“Are they going to have to sideline those who signed up for three years from the courses which they might want for the simple reason that we know we’ve got them locked away and they can’t get out for three years, which then you could have a big problem in terms of morale and retention,” says Scott Taylor.
He points to a similar program launched in the 1980s called the Youth Training and Employment Program (YTEP), which helped young people join the military for a year.
“What it created is what is known as a sort of second class of soldiers,” he says. “So you’ve had all those soldiers with the regular force who had signed up for a three-year basic engagement.
“These guys go in there and they can’t get out — they’re basically locked in — and suddenly you’ve got guys coming in who are essentially roped in from the unemployment lines and not necessarily wanting to be there.”
Ouellet estimates the Navy shortage is 1,700 members.
He says the new program might not be “the” solution, but it’s another tool they can add to their recruitment kit.
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