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February 19, 2018, 06:04:17 PM
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CAP Talk  |  Recent Posts
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 on: Yesterday at 04:49:36 PM 
Started by tinker - Last post by Mission/Tow Pilot
... A couple of observation ...
Thank you, Mommy.  Given your obvious humility, I'm sure you are a real joy to be around.

Why the unhelpful sarcasm?

 on: Yesterday at 04:41:35 PM 
Started by tinker - Last post by tinker
... A couple of observation ...
Thank you, Mommy.  Given your obvious humility, I'm sure you are a real joy to be around.

 on: Yesterday at 04:38:38 PM 
Started by NIN - Last post by Cicero
Make retention part of the program, with incentives for the cadets and SM team.
See what barriers exist in current offerings:
* transportation
* flexibility
* engagement

* community service hours
* internship hours

Interactive tracking!
* use modern tools
* notice them!
* Social media w/o wing/region/NHQ nitpicking!

See https://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/sites/default/files/retention_webinar_slides.pdf for primary sources!

 on: Yesterday at 04:34:32 PM 
Started by tinker - Last post by Live2Learn
Interesting thread. 

A couple of observations:

Releasing flights while driving suggests a fundamental problem with prioritizing tasks on the part of the AOBD/Driver.  Read the NIHS stats...  driving and chatting on a cell are not a good idea.  I've read several recent reports of fatal accidents caused by a driver minding a conversation and not immediate priorities.

It seems a good idea for pilots to be reminded that issues identified in eDiscrepancies need to be evaluated based upon each mission.  For example, would YOU fly a low level mission over big rocks knowing your engine was making metal from an unknown source?  From my experience with discrepancies listed therein "flight limitations" are sometimes inconsistent with FARs and sometimes inconsistent with the "safe to fly" part of the pre-flight determination of "airworthy".  Isn't this pertinent information for the FRO or AOBD to consider?  A checklist doesn't take long to work through.  Where wording is ambiguous, I agree it needs fixed. 

 on: Yesterday at 04:32:43 PM 
Started by NIN - Last post by NIN
Quote from: Fester
I'm curious where the loss rates come from.  They seem very high.  But I trust them seeing as they come from NIN and seem to be collaborated by Ned.

My question is, why are we losing so many?  Ned has some ideas that seem valid, but do we have any concrete data?  Do we do any outreach after losing a cadet to find out why they left?  It seems like, with the availability of electronic communications these days, that could be an easy task.  Furthermore, wouldn't that first person data make coming up with a strategy to solve the problem so much easier? And more effective?

Long post follows. But here's the TL;DR "CAP needs to make sure we set the expectations with our members and then deliver on those expectations."

So yeah, there's exit surveying that goes on.  We certainly do that, although at the moment, IMHO, its not nearly as effective as we'd like and we're looking at some ways to improve it.

First year cadet loss rates, as Ned as said, have been that high for a long time. They're similar to that found in other organizations like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Sea Cadets, etc, but you won't see the Boy Scouts actually *say* what their retention rate is (as a former cubmaster, I can tell you that number will be similar... My cub pack lost around 60% of our first year scouts for 2 years running..)

Ours has varied from first year cadet retention of 23% to upwards of 35% (77-65% turnover) It varies a fair bit, actually.  A lot more than seniors.  Senior retention (not broken out by first year) seems to vary between 71 & 74% or so and has been as high as 78%.

So what causes 65-75% of our first year cadets to walk?

Based on exit surveys, pretty consistently the most prominent reason is that "CAP wasn't what they thought it would be."  That's followed immediately by availability (time) and interests.

Keep this concept in the back of your mind while we talk about this: retention, like politics, is "local." With 1,000 or so units nationwide, I think you can imagine that not every unit participates in every aspect of CAP, nor do they necessarily follow the nationally provided guidance to a "T," which results in a high degree of "unevenness" between units.  CAP National HQ can't manage the "experience" at the local unit beyond trying to provide programs that can be scaled and managed easily locally. Really much of the flavor, tenor and activity of a local unit comes from the cast of characters running it. (this is likely *very* much the same with BSA, too. Scout units vary from "really awesome, well supported, well run and active" to "not very exciting and run by people who have run out of ideas or don't even care to crack the nationally provided guidance." And it shows)  Two units in the same town, just a few miles apart, might be like night and day.

So why is it that "CAP wasn't what they thought it would be?"

I think that a lot of CAP units portray a "Pollyanna-ish" version of CAP to prospective members in the recruiting process.  This has been a consistent theme of mine in talking to the membership about "recruiting for retention":  "Sell the Civil Air Patrol you have, not the one you wish you had." 

As an example: A unit might hard-sell orientation flights as a key aspect of their program. But the reality might be that they aren't a flying unit with a plane, and the next nearest unit with a plane and an orientation pilot is 150 miles away. The first time one of their cadets might get to even see a CAP plane might be summer encampment.  If they go.

Another example is NCSAs: Units might sell PJOC, Hawk Mountain, AETCFC, or IACE as part of their recruiting pitch, but the majority of cadets won't ever come close to *any* of that ever, let alone in their first year (and, in the case of IACE, likely not until your 3rd year or beyond, if you stick around). So cadets join expecting to be on Air Force bases every other week, flying in jets and Herks, traveling the world, saving people left and right.  And what do they actually get?  Endlessly marching in circles and next to nothing aviation.

Consequently, prospective members have an unrealistic expectation of what they're going to do when they join and leave when those expectations are not met.  Units have to be realistic in what they do and how they portray what they do and deliver on that promise to the member.

A lot of teenagers only see what they want to see when presented with an activity or organization. If its BSA, they might only see knot-tying and camping, not realizing that every meeting or activity isn't knot-tying or camping, but there's a lot more to making rank that some 550 cord and a tent.  If its football, they might only see the schnazzy uniforms and cheerleaders under the bright lights on a Friday night, not the hours upon hours of brutal practice the other 4 days of the week that goes in to becoming a good enough player to be on the first-string. 

(I have a sixteen year old at home who is a baseball and football player.  Its taken him literally *years* to be a good enough baseball player to be on the field for more than 3 or 4 innings in a game. I'd been telling him for that whole time that the only way he was going to get better at hitting was to take batting practice at the local indoor cages, and a lot of pitched balls, too. He somehow had it in his head that he has some natural ability [he doesn't], his encyclopedic knowledge of players and stats will help him swing the bat, and playing MLB on the ol' PS3 was going to be the trick. Only in the last 2 years of high school baseball has he finally clicked into a rhythm, but that involved a LOT of work on eye-hand coordination, swing mechanics and actual hitting at the cages with coaching. Then, oh, lo and behold, his hitting started to get better.  But NOBODY, his old man included, could originally convince him that baseball more than just effortless yet spectacular hits over the fence to win the game, so he got very that he wasn't going anywhere.  He lucked out in that his school has a small baseball and football team and they can barely fill all the roster slots, so he gets opportunities that kids might not in a larger school, and finally has started to see that effort, not just desire or glitz, yields results)

So if the unit, during its recruiting process, isn't doing anything to level-set the prospects's expectation of what they have to do up front, some folks are going to be understandably disappointed that their expectations don't match reality.  hey find out that wearing a uniform takes work, that they have to cut their hair, that the cadet program isn't all hanging off rappel ropes on a mountain and flying upside down in a T-38, its learning in a classroom and taking tests and actually putting forth an effort to advance. Its not a "gimmie."

As part of my unit's new member packet for our spring recruiting night, we just whipped up the attached PDF [ETA: Which Jerry broke while trying to upgrade the forums, so I'll have to host it elsewhere -NIN] as something to help make clear to prospective cadets what the "first year" is going to look like.  (this is a draft, BTW, not ready for primetime, but I'll happily take input on ways to make it better!)

Units don't do a very good job of reviewing members for "fit." Are we doing any actual formalized expectation setting with a prospective cadet when we bring them on board?  Are we confirming that the prospective cadet is the right fit for the outfit, and the outfit is the right fit for them?

CAPR 39-2 now says that membership boards are applicable only to CSMs, Active Members and patrons at the local units (para 1.5).

However, I will tell you that my unit has put every single prospective cadet who has come into the organization in front of a "membership board" since at least 2002 or 2003.  Now, that board really isn't there to say "yay" or "nay," but more so to sit them down in a formalized way and say "OK, do you understand why you're here? Do you have an understanding of what CAP is? What do you want to get out of CAP?," that kind of thing, and really "set the tone" for a new cadet's membership. 

As a recruiter, I can separate cadet membership dues from a parent really easily by selling CAP's value prop. Pretty easy. But when Cadet Timmy and his mom don't understand whats expected on their side and what they're going to get out of CAP, is Timmy going to be there for the next year and beyond? Are they going to get their $44 worth of the first year?  Maybe, maybe not.

I had a young man join this past cycle, I actually have known him for about 5-6 years prior to CAP (he was in my cub scout pack).  At our unit open house, dad mentioned something about "Well, he's got his oboe practice on Thursdays, but we think we can make this work around that and soccer and church volunteering and ... " My alarm bells went off.  Like a lot of teens, it sounded like he was oversubscribed.

"You sure he's going to be able to participate actively?  I'm not saying CAP is going to suck up all of his time, but its a participatory program for the cadet: if you're not at meetings, you're missing the things you need to do to advance."

"Oh, no,  I think we can make it work out all OK."


(at the end of the day, I'm not necessarily going to tell a parent "no" absent their kid being a troublemaker. Its my job to explain to them our  expectation of participation and need for involvement. If they think they can meet that, fine. Its their family schedule, their running around in the car, their schlepping Junior from point A to point B, etc. Sometimes, you know, no amount of explaining will do..)

Turned out mom wasn't a big fan of CAP, dad's an airline pilot, so on the weeks that dad's on a trip, the young man didn't come to CAP because his mom didn't want to bring him.

*sigh* Can't always see that kind of thing coming.  :-\

Fourth (and last)
As I alluded to first, units sell "the CAP they wish they had" versus the "CAP they have" or "the CAP they're doing"  A lot of units aren't even putting the rubber on the road to conduct basic aspects of the program correctly & consistently. So a young man or woman joins CAP on the basis of how good the unit's "marketing" effort is, not on whats actually going on week to week. Its not that the unit is even "overselling CAP" to a prospect, its that they're "under-doing CAP" locally, and after 4-5 months, the cadets go "We're doing the same dumb thing every night.. this is boring."

Units have to work to be active, vibrant and encompassing.  If a unit defaults to "drill and ceremonies" every time there's an unexpected break in the schedule or someone forgot to plan ahead, and they're just bumbling around the school cafeteria doing this marching thing poorly anyway, how long do you expect people to stick around for that?  "I thought I joined the Civil AIR Patrol, not the Civil Marching Around In Weird Circles Patrol."

I think that should about cover the "CAP not what I expected" aspect.

So now we get into things like Time & Interest, the other reasons why cadets leave.

The time aspect, as I alluded to above, is also part of expectation setting, but is also a function of when we recruit young men and women.

Recruiting a 12-13 year old who is in middle school is different than recruiting a 15-16 year old who is in high school.  When you're 12, you probably don't have 72 distractions happening yet.

One of my commanders liked to joke that we need to establish cadets in the program before the "fumes" get to them. And by "fumes," he means "gas fumes" and "perfumes."  He believed, and I tend to agree, that if you get a cadet involved in CAP and they become a senior NCO or cadet officer, kind of get into the groove of the program, when they get older and get distracted by the realities of life: they want a car when they turn 16, so they need a job, and then discover girls (or boys), they'll still participate in CAP since they're heavily invested or engaged.

Also, as I said before, a lot of young people *heavily* oversubscribed these days.  They have a 7.9 grade point average in 17 AP classes, play 2-3 sports, they're in band, drama, 4H, volunteer for the church, feed the homeless on alternative Saturdays and in their copious spare time they lifeguard at the YMCA, taking college enrichment classes and Dale Carnegie for their resume, and have a side business doing astrophotography using hand-built pinhole cameras and homemade photographic paper.  Yikes.

Question: Where does CAP fit into all that? Answer: Likely nowhere. And when the going gets tough,and choices have to be made, CAP, the new thing, will be the first to go.

So why recruit that cadet in the first place? The words "You know, maybe CAP isn't the kind of fit for young Timmy right now.." can be said.

Better to filter Timmy out beforehand than go thru all the effort to train him, get him equipped with uniforms and such, and then *poof* he nopes out in six months because he has to take another guitar class to follow his dream as the next Joe Satriani.

We honestly cannot manufacture more time. CAP takes at *least* 2 1/2-3 hrs a week just for meetings, and then maybe a couple Saturdays a month. If you're already committed to a couple Saturdays a month and multiple evenings during the week, you're going to run out of bandwidth quickly.  CAP might not be the right fit.

The interest thing is the next one in the pipeline, and again, that's solved by clear expectation setting up front, and making sure that cadets know what the program is all about before they sign on the dotted line.

I had a new cadet join in the fall. She was older (15-16?) and interested in flying.

"Can I fly? Can I get my pilot's license thru CAP?" she asked.

"Well, you *can* fly and you *could* get your pilot's license, but it takes some effort, time, money and timing. It gets down the availability of you, the aircraft and instructors, the weather, etc. If you're available, the plane is available, the instructor is available and the weather is right, you will likely go flying. If you're not able to get to the airport, the plane is off to maintenance, the weather stinks on the day you have everything lined up, you're going to have a hard time.  And our wing only has 1 Cessna 172 to do primary training in, and every 60 days it gets moved to another airport. So you and the instructor might have to travel to another airport in the state to continue the training in that airplane."

She was also interested in going in the Air Force after high school and her school didn't have JROTC, so CAP was all she had access to. She lived a little further out of town, so getting to meetings was going to require some effort, but if she said she was still very interested in what we're doing and the programs we offer. OK, cool. Come on in.

Well, she hasn't been to a meeting since the first of the year. When contacted, she professed that what CAP is doing is cool, but her interests have changed. The Air Force isn't a priority, flying isn't all the inviting and exciting, and, well, she's got other things.   Hrrmph. Not going to do much about that.

Interests change, but making sure that prospects know what they're getting in to and fit the organization will go a long way in ensuring that people who have the right interests are matched with CAP.

Bottom line: CAP isn't for everybody, and if we're recruiting everybody with a pulse and a checkbook and no understanding of what they're doing, or we're deliberately obfuscating what we are and what we do so that we can arm-twist a few more cadets (or seniors) into the organization, we're selling ourselves and our prospective members short.

 on: Yesterday at 04:28:45 PM 
Started by Falling Hare - Last post by Fester
Every unit in my Wing is a composite squadron. That is not the issue.

Only 9 of 25 units in my Wing are.

 on: Yesterday at 04:23:41 PM 
Started by Falling Hare - Last post by Cicero
Every unit in my Wing is a composite squadron. That is not the issue.

 on: Yesterday at 04:10:33 PM 
Started by Falling Hare - Last post by Fester

I'm curious where the loss rates come from.  They seem very high.  But I trust them seeing as they come from NIN and seem to be collaborated by Ned.

My question is, why are we losing so many?  Ned has some ideas that seem valid, but do we have any concrete data?  Do we do any outreach after losing a cadet to find out why they left?

I hope it won't surprise you to learn that we regularly survey former members asking these very questions.

In essence, most cadets leave feeling reasonably positive about the program, but the #1 reason listed is "lost / changed interest."  Other top reasons are "moved, new location with no nearby unit.  (About 10-15% of Americans move every year.). "Poor leadership" is listed, but midway down the list in single digits.

When we try to mine down on "lost / changed interest" responses, it is hard tease out meaningful data. Respondents mention competing activities like sports programs, other youth programs, church activities, and concentrating on academics.

Obviously, much of this is out of our control, but there are certainly things we can address:  ensuring that weekly meetings (>90% of our cadet contact time) are vital and engaging instead of "the AE instructor didn't come tonight, so drill around the parking lot."

And we do indeed use the data to drive retention strategies.  We have adjusted the PT program to make sure cadets are far less likely to "stall" at an early stage in their cadet career specifically to engage them in the promotion system and allow for new duties and positions.  We have significantly invested in the encampment program to make it more accessible because one of the strongest indicators for renewal is encampment attendance.

We have specifically addressed the "poor leadership" issue by revamping the TLC program and placing incentives in the system to encourage attendance by CP seniors.  We also made the TLC program itself more accessible by re-designing it into a one day course for most squadron-level CP officers.

We routinely task the NCAC to provide concrete ideas to improve retention and listen carefully to their input.

Obviously, despite a great deal of effort by dedicated CP officers from the local unit and higher, our first year retention numbers remain well below 50%.

I repeat my request:

What specific things can we do to improve retention?

Ned Lee
National Cadet Program Manager

(Currently attending the CAWG Cadet Programs Conference at Camp San Luis Obispo with nearly 400 enthusiastic cadets from every wing in PCR.  It is an amazing activity.  But these troops are not the retention problem, it is the 1100 CAWG cadets are not here having a great time.)

Awesome.  Thanks for the info, Ned.

Yes, it is "news to me" that we regularly survey former members.  But, in the defense of those at NHQ, I've only rejoined in the last 2 weeks after a 20 year break.  And much has changed.

I'm happy to see that a system is in place for discovering why we retain so few cadets.  I'm not surprised by the data you mention.  And I like the changes that have been made to address the problem.

IMHO, I think one of the things we could do to increase Cadet retention is to TRY to move away from "Senior Squadrons" and "Cadet Squadrons" and to really strive to focus on Composite Squadrons as the basic local unit level.  I don't have the data to support it, but I would bet that Cadets in Cadet Squadrons don't get the opportunities for O'Rides or flight training that those in Composite Squadrons do.  And I've always believed that flight time is a HUGE factor in Cadet retention.

In the town I live in, there is both a Senior Squadron and a Cadet Squadron.  Both located at the local airport.  I don't understand why.  The reason is "well, not every Senior wants to participate in the CP."  I'm sorry, but that's one of our 3 missions.  Why join an organization when you're not wanting to support 1/3 of what that organization does?

 on: Yesterday at 03:59:21 PM 
Started by Falling Hare - Last post by Cicero
I repeat my request:

What specific things can we do to improve retention?

Ned Lee
National Cadet Program Manager

(Currently attending the CAWG Cadet Programs Conference at Camp San Luis Obispo with nearly 400 enthusiastic cadets from every wing in PCR.  It is an amazing activity.  But these troops are not the retention problem, it is the 1100 CAWG cadets are not here having a great time.)
Repeat - engage where they are, that means texting and social media. Get the upper echelon perfectionists out of the way! Let the CC at the unit level be the arbiter, not a Wing/Regional/National nitpicker destroy enthusiasm and initiative.

 on: Yesterday at 03:59:10 PM 
Started by GaryVC - Last post by GaryVC
The O-ring on our Aquapod broke the last time we used it. The Aquapod website says the O-rings are 2 x 14 mm (ID). However, our Home Depot only has O-rings with inch dimensions. Has anyone found one of these sizes that will work?

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