The most recent recruitment into the British armed forces has seen over 1,000 Vincentians applying, the largest number since recruitment began in 1999.
And since earlier this year, prospective recruits who cleared the first hurdle of the application process have been leaving St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) for the United Kingdom at the rate of about two per month.
On Wednesday, SEARCHLIGHT caught up with Earl Paynter at the Arnos Vale Playing field, where he was going through fitness drills with a group of applicants.
Paynter is the local liaison officer for the British recruitment services and he explained that of the 1,000 Vincentians who applied last year, only the first 400 applicants were given the written test in November 2016, when recruiters from the Army and Navy visited SVG.
He said because of the large number of applicants, recruiters thought it best to come to SVG to administer the multiple choice test in Math, English, mechanical application and reasoning.
Of those tested, 181 passed and were invited to travel to the UK, within three years time, to complete the second phase of the application process.
Paynter explained that originally, the quota for Vincentians was between 60 and 80, but 181 were accepted because the British Army and Navy look forward to Vincentian candidates.
âThe quality of candidates that they have gotten from St Vincent and the Grenadines is exceptional, so when they hear St Vincent, they know they are getting a good naval officer,â he declared.
âIn terms of Commonwealth citizens serving in the British Navy, St Vincent is number three,â Paynter said.
There are currently over 500 Vincentians in active duty between the Navy and Army, Paynter said, and in the Navy, about seven Vincentians are presently in training to be considered for promotion.
He explained that several vacancies exist within the British armed forces.
âFor one reason or the other, British nationals do not pick up these jobs, so there was a big shortage.â
Additionally, according to Paynter, although the British Navy now has a smaller fleet, the ships are bigger and more people are needed to man them, while at the same time, there was recently an exodus from the Navy.
âThen about three to four years ago, there was a big retirement exodus of persons. Many persons decided to retire.â
He said the starting salaries and exchange rate make jobs in the British armed services attractive for Vincentians.
âQuite a lot of them have purchased land and have built houses…,â Paynter disclosed.
Some of the jobs open to Commonwealth nationals are: chefs, stewards, steward accountant, dentist assistant, medical assistant, logistics officer, marine engineer, mechanic and writer.
Eligible persons must be between the ages of 16 and 35 years old and once a person signs up, they have up to three years to join officially.
If a person does not have any obstacles, the application process can take a year.
Kazeem Pierre, one of the prospective recruits explained her reason for signing up.
âI am unemployed at the moment and I saw this as an opportunity to help myself and I also have a three-year-old son, so this will also help me prepare for his future,â she said.
Several times a week, Paynter meets at the Arnos Vale Playing field with some of the persons who were successful in the written exam. They are preparing themselves for the next set of testing, which would be done in the United Kingdom.
Paynter said when the prospective recruits travel to the UK, they will be interviewed, undergo another medical, then take a fitness test in which they will be required to run a mile and half in a specific time, depending on their age and gender. They must also be able to swim.
The second set of testing in the UK could take as long as three months, he explained.
After this, successful candidates are then accepted into the armed forces to begin a 10-week training programme.
Paynter paid special tribute to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sir Louis Straker for assisting the recruitment process during the time when support for the process had receded.
For more details on applying to the British Navy visit www.royalnavy.mod.uk
[UPDATED on October 6, 2017 at 8:29 pm to change the year recruitment began to 1999]