Youngsters pin hopes on army for better future

Mayor of Lancaster Jon Barry with the young men who have swore the oath to the Queen and coutry at the enlistment ceremony, with Majro Marc Steventon, MBE.
Mayor of Lancaster Jon Barry with the young men who have swore the oath to the Queen and coutry at the enlistment ceremony, with Majro Marc Steventon, MBE.

Be the best. The phrase which is drilled into every aspiring solider who is thinking about building a career in the army.

But for some youngsters they feel “their best” before army life is not good enough.

The price for an education is now tougher than ever with the standard university fee being £9,000.

Regular changes to the GCSE system and the scrapping of student maintenance grants has also piled on the pressure for some.

Out of the 10 army candidates approached by the Lancaster Guardian at their enlistment ceremony, eight said they wanted to join due to “a lack of career opportunities” and “a better education.”

For 16-year-old Samuel Edmondson a career in the army is his only option.

Joining the army is something I’ve wanted to do all my life, and in all honesty I didn’t see much opportunity elsewhere

Samuel Edmondson

Samuel, from Carnforth, said: “Joining the army is something I’ve wanted to do all my life, and in all honesty I didn’t see much opportunity elsewhere.

“To learn and earn at the same time is great, and I’m following in my dad’s footsteps.

“There are a lot of job preferences through the army and you don’t see a lot of 16-year-olds getting paid this much.”

Kieran De Carteret is entering as a supply specialist for the Royal Logistics Corps.

The 16-year-old said: “I wanted to get out and gain some experience and I didn’t want to stay in education any longer.

“It is portrayed as quite hard to get a job at the age of 16, the army does provide good opportunities for people of all ages.”

Over the past two years the Lancaster Army Careers Office has seen an increase in the number of applicants across the district.

Every year the office receives 250 applications with 60 being put through successfully for training.

Major Marc Steventon, MBE, Senior Careers Adviser for Cumbria and Lancashire, said: “The office has recruited more this year than it did last year and I think that’s because more people are realising how much opportunity is available.

“The army is right up there now in giving recognisable qualifications to young people.

“Sometimes people’s perceptions of the army is slightly skewed, they think there is only one job, which is a combat role running around with a rifle, what they tend to miss is the 143 other jobs that are available.”

Lancaster MP Cat Smith has said it is devastating some youngsters are joining because they feel they have nothing 
else left to do.

Ms Smith said: “I had a lot of family members in the army but if the army is not for you and you feel it is your last option then I think that is utterly devastating.

“Education has been 
massively cut under 
this government.

“If you go back to Victorian times you had young, working class men joining up because it was their only option and it looks like we are going back to that.”

Morecambe MP David Morris has said there are opportunities out there for young people in the area.

Mr Morris said: “It is now compulsory for young people to stay in education to the age of 18, by means of full time study, an apprenticeship or traineeship.

“The army offers fantastic training for our young people but the government is ensuring that schools are providing detailed careers advice from year 8 onwards to ensure that pupils are fully informed about the wide range of options which are available to them.”

Once the youngsters have passed the criteria they will head for the Army Foundation College in Harrogate were they will undergo military lessons as well as academic classes.

They will be away from home for 40 weeks with a starting wage of £14,500 a year.

Major of Lancaster Jon Barry has recognised the commitment the candidates are prepared to make.

Mayor Barry said: “As a university city 18-year-
olds will be living away 
for 40 weeks, but these men are younger and what they will be doing will be ten times harder so hats off to them.

“I’m sure they will make their parents very proud.”

Major Steventon said: “If this group of young people here were going to university that same look would be on their parents’ faces.

“The army looks after its soldiers, they are our most valuable asset.

“The equipment is what it is, its the soldiers that make the army.”

Corporal offers advice to the new recruits

Advice from one of the youngest corporals in the Queen’s Dragoon Guards (QDG).

Alex Doolan, from Morecambe, said: “The training is progressive so you will naturally get fitter as you continue through basic training. However a good level of fitness is required initially.

“Turn up with the right frame of mind. Your are joining an organisation that has a strong and respected rank structure.

“Be prepared to be very busy for the first couple of months.

“That’s the time you are being moulded into a soldier from a civilian so expect late nights, early mornings and being on your feet and active for the majority of the day.

“For the majority it will be there first time away from home for an extended period.

“This is an opportunity to be relished and does a lot by way of helping people grow up and adapt quickly by themselves.

“And last thing remember, if it was easy everyone would be doing it.”