The Ministry of Defence is restarting its drive to find a new recruitment partner to line up a combined 20,000 recruits a year for the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force after efforts were halted last year.
It is set to host a virtual “market interest day” for future providers later this month ahead of the publication of a formal contract notice next month. Successful bidders would run the Armed Forces Recruitment Programme from 2024.
The MoD said the new programme would put candidates at the heart of the recruitment process at the same time as “ensuring the armed forces achieve the right quality and quantity of candidates to satisfy demand while remaining agile and responsive to change”.
Outsourcing giant Capita was appointed to run the £1.3bn decade-long Recruiting Partnering Project for the Army in 2012, but the model consistently failed to meet targets in its first years. A 2019 report from parliament’s Public Accounts Committee said the partnership had presided over a 7,000-head shortfall in the number soldiers and officers being recruited in 2017-18.
According to Captia, the RPP hit its recruitment target for regular soldiers and officers for the first time in 2019-20.
In 2019 the MoD awarded consultant Deloitte a £2.45m contract to help develop a new tri-service recruitment model dubbed the Armed Forces Recruiting Programme. It was supposed to have a digital system for managing recruitment as its cornerstone.
In 2020 an initial procurement exercise to source a future provider for the AFRP was launched, but the MoD said a review had identified that the process “no longer reflected the future needs of defence”. Capita was subsequently handed a two year extension to its RPP contract, worth £140m.
In its prior-information notice for the new procurement exercise, the MoD said it had taken the opportunity to “further refine the requirements” for the AFRP and now wanted to hear from suppliers of recruitment services, including marketing, digital and assessment specialists.
“The Armed Forces recruit approximately 20,000 people a year across a broad spectrum of job roles into the three single Services,” it said.
“This is currently achieved by the single services using different delivery models. The Royal Navy and RAF have a number of contracts in support of their recruiting activities, some of which are joint whilst others are unique, with the actual recruiting service provided in-house.
“The Army’s recruitment is currently carried out under one contract which provides a full end-to-end recruiting and assessment service. This contract also gives the RN and RAF use of a common digital platform to manage candidates throughout their recruiting journey.”
The PAC’s 2019 report said the RPP contract had been “overly complex and poorly implemented” and that both the Army and Capita “must share responsibility for Capita's terrible performance in recruiting new soldiers since 2012”.
It said both the Army and Capita had underestimated the complexity of the Army's recruitment policies and noted that Capita admitted it had been “chasing revenue” and “should have pushed back far more on the Army's requirements”.
MPs said the Army had been concentrating on the war in Afghanistan, which was helping to recruit new soldiers, and “naïvely assumed” it could just hand responsibility for recruitment to Capita when the firm lacked the required specialist expertise.