Although launched some months ago, added impetus is now being put behind the Army's Further Education Bursary Scheme (FEBS). Traditionally bursaries have only been awarded to students attending degree courses and this has often been seen as elitist as it mainly benefitted the officer-class. The introduction of FEBS has meant that all students over 16 can now qualify for financial support to continue their education. FEBS provides annual grants of £1,000 to college students attending qualifying vocational courses (e.g. mechanics, I.T., business admin, catering) at 200 British colleges with a further £1,000 being paid out on completion of basic training.
The key drivers behind FEBS are:
- reducing the very high drop out rate during basic training. Currently about half of recruits drop out within the first 14 weeks often because they didn't really understand what being in the Army is about when they enlisted. FEBS is aimed at providing that insight upfront.
- meeting the skill shortage from which the Army is currently suffering. The courses that are supported by the scheme are all relevant to careers in the Army.
- improving the quality of recruits. Students successfully completing their college courses will be better educated and motivated. Failings in Britain's schools mean that the educational attainments of new recruits falls short of the Army's standards and consequently the Army is having to do the teachers' job for them by running its own in-house literacy and numeracy courses.
- mitigating the impending rise in the school-leaving age to 18. The Army currently takes on recruits from aged 16 and 17 but from 2013 this will no longer be possible. The Army sees the bursary scheme as a means to mitigate this and to build partnerships with the colleges for mutual benefit.
- going a long way to meeting the Army's recruitment target. FEBS is offering 3,000 bursaries and if all are successful, this would meet 25% of its target of 12,000 recruits.
Sounds like a good scheme which should help many young people stay on in further education. The Army is a wee bit optimistic, though, if it imagines it will be able to get the £4,000 back from students who drop out before they get to basic training.
Link> MoD: Army offers secure future to student soldiers
Link> The Mirror: Army to pay you to learn
Link> The Guardian: Army to pay students to complete further education
Link> AV: Army Bursary Scheme takes off