Private Connor on parade

Private Connor Austin
Private Connor Austin

Connor Austin, from Skegness, was one of over 500 junior soldiers from the Army Foundation College (AFC) taking part in Europe’s largest military graduation parade.

Private Austin joined teenagers from all over the country in the parade at Uniacke Barracks in Harrogate, earlier this month after completing training to become junior soldiers for various regiments of the British Army. The soldiers now begin the next part of their specialist training, learning how to do their jobs at home and on operations.

Each year, the prestigious AFC Harrogate takes in 1,350 school-leavers who are given the opportunity to learn military skills, gain essential qualifications and develop as a person, while at the same time getting paid throughout their training. The Army is always recruiting, and the junior entry programme provides an alternative option for young people who have chosen to take on the challenge of a career in the Army over a traditional further education path.

Nearly 4,000 relatives and friends turned out to watch as the new soldiers passed out, in a parade which is the second largest for the British Army, beaten in size only by the Trooping of the Colour. Each junior soldier rehearses for about 20 hours in preparation for the graduation parade.

The soldiers have all completed training which combines military skills with education in key subjects such as numeracy and literacy, as well adventure training and sports, culminating in a 30-hour patrol across the Yorkshire Dales.

Private Austin, who is heading to Catterick to become a Guardsman, said; “My family is very proud. I am too. I joined the AFC so that I could join the Guardsmen, but I’ve learnt so much more along the way.”

AFC Harrogate takes in junior soldiers on two types of course: a short 20-week course, and a longer 40-week course. The pass rate for those on the short course, who will go on to train for a trade apprenticeship, was over 90 per cent, while for the long course it was over 80 per cent.

Brigadier Andrew Jackson, Army director of recruiting and training said: “These young soldiers can be very proud of their achievements. The training they go through is tough, but undeniably leads to excellent opportunities for personal and career development and allows people’s talents and skills to shine through.

“By the end of their time at AFC Harrogate, our junior soldiers are confident and proficient, and have gained crucial transferable skills.

“The Army is always recruiting, and we are always looking for talented young people to take up the challenge of a career in the Army. No matter what your background or skills, the Army has something to offer and bring out strengths you never knew you had.”

AFC Harrogate’s short course delivers basic training to the soldiers before they leave to start their longer and more specialist technical training. They also have the opportunity to gain NVQs in English, maths and information and communications technology, as well as driver theory training.

The longer course consists of a combination of military skills and vocational qualifications before the soldiers move on to phase 2 training in their chosen trade or specialism. They have the opportunity to achieve a City and Guilds apprenticeships and many have also achieved a Duke of Edinburgh Award.

There are thousands of full-time and part-time jobs available in the Army, across hundreds of different roles. Some of the roles available now include: bricklayers, communications specialists, logistics specialists, air conditioning and refrigerator engineers, welders, veterinary technicians, musicians, technical storemen, environment health technicians, health care assistants and infantry soldiers.

For more information about the exciting job opportunities with the Army, visit