Leading from the front

It
can hardly be classed as just another organisation, but when it comes to
recruiting and developing ‘staff’ and the use of e-learning, the Army has
stolen a march on civvy street. We look at three areas where it is taking the
lead in HR.

The
Army on… personal development

The
rationale behind it:

The
Army has a learning and development programme for all recruits, called the
Learning Forces Initiative. Nearly everyone who joins has the opportunity to
gain NVQs, Key Skills, City & Guilds, BTECs, NEBs, and qualifications right
up to Bachelor and Masters degree level. The Army’s practices are in line with
the Government’s Lifelong Learning Policy, which sets out to promote and
encourage learning throughout an individual’s life, regardless of how old they are.
There are also a number of professional qualifications that can be taken,
including CIPD and Institute of Management courses.

How
is it implemented?

When
a soldier joins, they are issued with a Personal Development Record (PDR),
which stays with them throughout their time in the Army and allows them to take
ownership of their own training and development. There is plenty of careers
advice on offer from the Army Education Centres, and Regimental Career
Management Officers are also on hand to discuss possible courses and career
development in general.

But
aren’t the practicalities of learning difficult in the Army?

While
the concept of gaining an education and qualifications in the Army is fine in
theory, sudden postings abroad – a common occurrence – do not exactly make for
an uninterrupted training programme. However, by 2005, the Army aims to give
every soldier access to the latest IT equipment via a network of Army Learning
Centres (ALCs), where they will be able to take advantage of the latest e-learning
methods. These are being set up according to the specification set by the
Government’s University for Industry (UfI) and its learndirect centres.

The
Army on… online recruitment:

The
rationale behind it:

There
are over 1,400 career paths in the Army – which is a lot of jobs for potential
new recruits to choose from. Joining the Army begins by visiting one of its
careers offices, of which there are 123 up and down the country. Those
interested in a military career can go along to their local office for a general
chat. Once they decide they are serious about joining, they sit the British
Army Recruit Battery (BARB) test via a touch screen computer system, which
assesses their suitability for the Army. Sometimes this test is sat on the
initial visit if a person is already committed to joining.

So
where does the internet come in?

To
maximise the use of the internet in the recruiting process, the Army has set up
an online careers office. While potential new recruits can’t join online, it
acts as a valuable intermediary stage, allowing them to contact a soldier
direct and e-mail any questions they may have about Army life. Anyone who
contacts the site and wants to take their application further is put in touch
with their nearest recruiting office. It reduces administration on the Army’s
part by initiating a digital file of basic details on those who want to join,
which is then transmitted to the relevant careers office. The e-mail enquiry
service has proved invaluable and the online office says it is often asked questions
that people might be embarrassed to ask in person, such as queries about
sexuality, or racial and sexual equality.

How
is it accessed?

The
online careers office sits within the Army’s main website, but it has recently
reorganised the strategy behind its recruiting process and set up a central
website giving details of all Army careers, at www.armyjobs.co.uk. There is a link to the
online careers office here, signposted ‘Now Ask’, as well as a facility to request
information packs on careers as officers, soldiers, in the Territorial Army and
on further education in the Army. In addition to this, there are a number of
links to the Army’s different career product groupings, which have been
introduced to give a more civilian image to jobs in the Army. These include IT
and communications, HR, administration and finance, engineering, logistics and
healthcare. Each of these groupings has its own dedicated website – for instance,
www.armyengineering.co.uk

The
Army on… e-learning:

The
rationale behind it:

As
part of the Defence Training Review(ITALICS) (DTR) published this year, the
armed services are expected to convert at least 20 per cent of traditional
face-to-face training to e-learning. The services are already using some of the
most sophisticated computer-assisted learning methods around in areas such as
flight simulation and training, and the Ministry of Defence- (MoD)-wide
e-learning strategy will be building on this and broadening the e-learning
base.

What
kind of projects can we expect to see?

One
of the first contracts to be awarded since the publication of the DTR has been
to e-learning provider AdVal, whose winning submission included the application
of innovative battlefield and weapon system simulation in an e-learning
framework. It is designed to train officers for both command and staff
appointments, covering areas such as management, leadership, doctrine, military
analysis and operations. AdVal is working closely with the Royal Military
College of Science and the junior Defence Staff College to develop the training
materials.

Are
there any e-learning successes to report of yet?

At
the British Army’s Land Command headquarters, the Army has been piloting an
e-learning programme that gives all new recruits a virtual online tutor to
assist with IT training. Provided by the solutions and training division of
e-business services company Parity, it uses streaming media to present a
civilian or military human instructor in the application, who guides the new recruit
through the IT training. Staff are being trained in basic and specially
developed IT applications.

To
access the e-learning, they only need to be near an intranet connection. This
is a vital asset, as many land command recruits are based in remote locations
and unable to attend scheduled classroom sessions for mandatory IT
instructions.

“Our
people are distributed around the country and all over the globe,” says
Lieutenant Colonel Barry Keegan, ICS programme manager at HQ Land Command. “The
need for basic IT training is still present. We aim to provide this on a basis
that suits our staff – IT training may not be our top priority, but it is still
important that our users are able to interact with our IT systems.”

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