This year, the number of school leavers applying for university places rose by almost 10%. But what of those who don’t have the qualifications needed to ride out the recession at college? In July, it was reported that there has been an increase of 366% in Scottish military recruitment with the number of Scots joining the army rising from 27 in the first quarter of 2008, to 97 in the first quarter in 2009. You don’t need to pass exams to join the army as no formal qualifications are required to become a soldier.
A local recruiter confirmed to me that this can mean accepting young people with entry level communication skills. In plain speak, this means that the army is willing to recruit young people who don’t have the requisite literacy skills to complete the application form.
This reminds me of Paul, whom I first met 18 months ago, when he was about to start an adult learning class to improve his writing and reading. He told me of his lucky escape from the army when he was prematurely discharged after sustaining an injury during basic training. A year and a half later, Paul has lost his job and home and he has changed his mind. A few weeks ago, when I last saw him, Paul had made his mind up: if he didn’t get a job by Christmas, he was going back to the army.
Jobcentre Plus in Stirlingshire currently has more than double the numbers signing on than in May 2008. It is no surprise to see soldiers, in incongruous camouflage, engaging young people in conversation outside shopping centres in Falkirk and Stirling.