Summary of Findings

Preliminary Assessment – Personnel Awaiting Training (PAT)

Background

In November, 2013 the Department of National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Ombudsman conducted an outreach visit to Wainwright, Alberta. During the visit, some members raised concerns that PAT may experience protracted periods without meaningful work or structure while they await occupational training. Further concerns were noted in relation to the ability of staff to effectively manage and supervise PAT.
 

Issue

In January, 2014 we commenced a preliminary assessment to better understand the numbers of PAT, the average time PAT spend waiting for their occupational courses, the resulting impact on PAT and, lastly, the costs associated with the management of PAT.
 

Methodology

Interviews were conducted with 14 training establishments across the Army and Navy and with two authorities at 2 Canadian Air Division responsible for certain Air Force occupations. Interviews were also conducted with the Combat Training Centre Headquarters and the Royal Canadian Navy Personnel Training Group. In addition, during February 24 through 28, 2014 investigative staff met with personnel and PAT from four training establishments at Canadian Forces Base Borden.
 

Findings

Numbers of PAT and length of time spent awaiting training

In attempting to determine the number of PAT and the length of time spent awaiting occupational training, we encountered a number of challenges:
 

  • the definition of PAT varies and is not universally applied;
     
  • there do not appear to be consistent or robust methods of capturing data relating to members awaiting training;
     
  • there is an inconsistent approach to the management of PAT due to the lack of oversight by a centralized authority; and
     
  • there is no champion at the senior leadership level, no standardized tracking or visibility, and no comprehensive policy on PAT.   
     

Impacts on PAT

The most significant issue identified was a lack of meaningful work; in some instances we heard accounts of days being spent with little direction apart from physical activity and inspection. There was an overwhelming acknowledgment from PAT[1], and concern on the part of some of their superiors, that this has a significant impact on morale which could contribute to the loss of highly motivated candidates through voluntary release.
 

The lack of meaningful work, along with lengthy wait times, can cause “skill fade”; the longer the delay in commencing occupational training, the more likely PAT are to forget the skills and knowledge they have acquired. Additional concerns were expressed that francophone members could experience longer wait times to begin occupational training due to a lower number of francophone students as well as instructors and because French courses are generally offered less often than English ones[2].
 

Costs Associated with PAT

We did not complete a detailed cost analysis for the purposes of this preliminary assessment. However, in November 2012 the Chief Review Services (CRS) released a report entitled Evaluation of Recruiting and Basic Military Training. Although the report was not specific to the issues of PAT, the report acknowledged that delays for PAT exist due to the lack of synchronization between basic military qualification graduation and the commencement of occupational training. The CRS estimated that members were waiting an average of three to four months to commence occupational training, amounting to $30 million dollars per year in lost salaries.  
 

Conclusion

The Office’s interest in PAT was sparked by concerns about a largely protracted, unstructured experience while awaiting training. Our preliminary assessment of these concerns identified inconsistencies and an overall lack of coordination. It also identified a number of steps that have been or are being taken by the CAF in response to the findings noted in the 2012 CRS report. In order to deepen our analysis in terms of potential next steps (investigation and/or intervention), we require further information relating to the status of these initiatives.
 

Prepared by: Investigator
Submitted to: Director of Investigations
Submitted to: A/Director General Operations
Date: 17 June 2014
 

[1] Reported by PAT during the outreach visit to Wainright in November of 2013; as well as during the outreach and PAT investigation visit to Borden in February of 2014.
 

[2] This information was shared with us by leadership and PAT; more specifically within the Army training establishments. Note, however, that we did not investigate this point in-depth within the scope of our preliminary assessment.
 

Please also note: The Office conducted a detailed review of Official Language services at CFB Borden in 2007/2008 http://www.ombudsman.forces.gc.ca/en/ombudsman-news-events-media-letters/quick-resolution-of-official-languages-issue.page AND http://www.ombudsman.forces.gc.ca/en/ombudsman-news-events-media-letters/official-languages-matrix-jan-08.page . 

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