This is Belonging
What was the issue?
The Army has an ethnically rich workforce, but many BAME soldiers are from Commonwealth countries; attracting BAME individuals from UK communities is proving more difficult. Significant barriers in understanding what the Army can offer, and misconceptions about how people with minority racial backgrounds can thrive within the organisation still exist.
In response, the Army has chosen to adopt a persistent and consistent approach that is focused on building sustainable and collaborative partnerships with UK BAME communities to break down negative stereotypes. The decision to join the Army is rarely taken lightly or quickly, therefore all the recruiting efforts must take a long-term view of their audiences, including family, friends, community leaders, teachers, religious guides and other influencers of potential candidates. Activity now could inspire people to join the Army in ten to fifteen years’ time.
The Army conducts a wide range of activities to inspire young people from all backgrounds to show how a career in the Army might fit with their aspirations. Long-term relationships are built, contacts maintained, and role models help to dispel myths. It is recognised that the BAME audience and their communities are not homogeneous, and each community will have a unique perspective, which must be catered for. To increase its capacity to engage with more communities, this year it has created a new Outreach Team focused solely on diversity and youth.
A few examples of activities include:
- Attendance at a Big Bang and National Skills events which have a high volume of BAME individuals.
- National Hindu Students Forum Sports Day including Outreach Activities, Recruiting Stands and exhibition match between an Army Netball Team and Tournament Winners.
- ‘BAME Super Camps’ in the North East delivered personal development and leadership activities to school and community groups for over 500 young people.
- In partnership with the Institute for Statecraft Charity’s Shared Outcomes Programme, several Army Challenge Weeks and weekends for Minority Communities.
- Raising awareness amongst the minority Communities through print/website promotional work and Role Model Stories.
- Faith Suppers in partnership with St Phillips Centre (multi-faith community centre), Leicester. 30 families of 9 different religions welcomed soldiers into their homes to dine with the family during Inter-Faith Week UK. Over 100 people participated including many children who had the opportunity with their parents to meet and to speak to serving members of the military for the first time.
- Program in partnership with Manchester Utd Foundation linked schools (42 % of the children are BAME).
- Participation at Scottish Asian Football Championships.
- Exploring collaboration opportunities with Metropolitan Police Sikh Association, Singh Sabha Sikh Organisation (largest Sikh organisation outside of India) and several school visits and talks (Upton Court Grammar School, Cranford Community College, Guru.
- Nanak Sikh Academy, Dormers Wells Secondary School).
- SWAT (Sikh Welfare and Awareness Team charity- engagement with their youth club).
- Akaal Channel Interviews of serving soldiers.
- Cultural Visits to Gurdwara’s, Mandir’s and Mosque.
- The creation of an ‘Ambassadors network’, to connect potential candidates with serving personnel who can be both diverse role models for the young people, and a safe channel to ask questions. This includes BAME soldiers such as members of the Army BAME Network.
These specific activities were reinforced with a new advertising campaign ‘This is Belonging’ An innovative series specifically designed to communicate the commitment to multicultural inclusion within the Army. Senior leaders have responded to the significant press interest, creating a great opportunity to amplify both personal and organisational commitment to diversity. The vocal negative media attention has been counter-balanced by the quiet approval of most of the recruiting audience, especially amongst ethnic minority groups.
What was the impact?
Success in this area will be incremental, but it is tangible. Applications to join the Army from UK BAME candidates has increased by 120% from 3996 in FY13/14 to 8775 in FY16/17. Reports from February 2018 are indicating that this will increase even more in FY17/18 as there have already been 8,143 applications. There has been an increase of 89% in UK BAME candidates that completed the recruiting and selection process. This has contributed to an overall increase in BAME inflow into the Army, from 9.8% in Mar 13 to 15.0% in September 2017. (Figures found here).