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NIN
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Posts: 5,212
Unit: of issue

« on: March 29, 2019, 12:49:19 PM »



Week Zero. Twenty three new cadets.

I suspect we'll wind up with 20 (there's always a little "melt" before inprocessing night)

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Darin Ninness, Lt Col, CAP
Sq Bubba, Wing Dude, National Guy
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The contents of this post are Copyright © 2007-2019 by NIN. All rights are reserved. Specific permission is given to quote this post here on CAP-Talk only.
TheSkyHornet
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Posts: 1,747

« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2019, 05:30:09 PM »

Hey, Nin...just wondering:

What's your local environment like (city center, suburban, rural)?
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PHall
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Posts: 6,536

« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2019, 05:42:07 PM »

He's in Concord, New Hampshire. Not exactly an urban jungle.
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Eclipse
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Posts: 29,818

« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2019, 05:50:00 PM »

My main thoughts when I see stuff like this are jealousy with a healthy dose of reality.

Cohort recruiting clearly works, and should probably be the CAP model, but retention success
requires a critical mass of experienced and capable adult leaders invested in CAP and the idea,
not to mention a decent number of cadet cadre to herd the cats.

The numbers in this photo would overwhelm the average "barely there" unit.

A unit trying to go to this from zero needs to accept a 1-2 year cycle time to get this
sourdough baking, and if it doesn't have the seed dough, it's going to struggle.

That doesn't mean don't start, just be realistic. You've got to have a group doing raw materials procurement,
prepping the hoppers, keeping an eye on the ovens, etc., etc.

In most wings, the most experienced and capable members not engaged in unit activities,
the ones who could provide the knowledge and manpower to jumpstart things, are usually
in the Groups and Wings - ready with rhetoric about what to do, but rarely willing to roll-up
their sleeves and dig in and help (no "do", help). 

To be fair, many at that level have honestly BTDT and have moved on to "other", but one can only
imagine what might get done if the time wasted on SUIs, CIs, arguing about who gets a find,
re-doing websites that work fine, and planning rubber chicken banquets no one cares about,
were actually spent in wrench-turning support of units.

I seem to recall there was a session in SLS called "Squadrons: The Heart of CAP", which apparently
has a "just kidding" during the summary.

TL:DR - Good on 'ye NIN, everyone else do it, but be realistic.
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NIN
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Posts: 5,212
Unit: of issue

« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2019, 10:39:11 PM »

He's in Concord, New Hampshire. Not exactly an urban jungle.

City: 41,000
County: 147,000

Unit: 106
(We do pull from the county to our south a bit, but its probably offset by the areas of our county that are > 40 minutes from town)

Population under a 20 mile radius circle (not realistic, totally encroaches on the recruiting areas of at least three squadrons) is 307,354
A 30 minute drive time map would give you something entirely different than a circle, figure about 112,000 people total under our "footprint"
(tool:https://www.freemaptools.com/find-population.htm)

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Darin Ninness, Lt Col, CAP
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I like to have Difficult Adult Conversations™
The contents of this post are Copyright © 2007-2019 by NIN. All rights are reserved. Specific permission is given to quote this post here on CAP-Talk only.
NIN
Administrator

Posts: 5,212
Unit: of issue

« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2019, 11:00:02 PM »

My main thoughts when I see stuff like this are jealousy with a healthy dose of reality.

Cohort recruiting clearly works, and should probably be the CAP model, but retention success
requires a critical mass of experienced and capable adult leaders invested in CAP and the idea,
not to mention a decent number of cadet cadre to herd the cats.

The numbers in this photo would overwhelm the average "barely there" unit.

See now, Bob.  There ya go.  You basically just said "Thats not the way we've always done it.."

First, a unit's cohort tends to scale as a function of its membership.  Dunno why. Maybe the fishbowl effect? Not sure.

But IOW, you're not going to recruit 23 new cadets when you only have a unit of 10.

I just helped a unit recruit about 45 days ago and they said "OK, we'll buy this concept, lets give it a whirl!"

The unit has around 14 cadets.  They recruited 4.  And two seniors (the squadron had, no kidding, just 4 seniors)

They're going to do it again in a month. They'll probably get 4 again. Or maybe 5 (but also, maybe just 3).  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Eventually, instead of 14 cadets, they'll have 20. And then when they start a new cohort, they'll recruit 6 new cadets, not 4.

And a year from now, when they have 25 or 30 cadets, maybe they'll be recruiting 7 or 8 each time.

Try as you might: if you're a 15 cadet squadron, I will pretty much guarantee you're not going to accidentally triple the size of your unit overnight. Because the first 2-5 times you do this, you're going to not be tremendously efficient at it. But you'll figure it out right quick. And then you'll iterate and improve.  Find 2-3 things each time to make better, do differently, leave behind, etc.

I swear I remember a Calvin & Hobbes cartoon where Calvin accidentally clones himself a dozen times in the Transmogrifier.

Ain't happening here. It scales with the unit.

I have 60+ cadets (soon to be 80+ cadets, LOL).

Quote
A unit trying to go to this from zero needs to accept a 1-2 year cycle time to get this
sourdough baking, and if it doesn't have the seed dough, it's going to struggle.

You do have the seed dough: its your existing membership.  What do you think, a big lump of sourdough cadet bread is just going to come sailing out of the sky and land on your squadron? "*FOOMP* here ya go, here's your cadet starter."

Quote
That doesn't mean don't start, just be realistic. You've got to have a group doing raw materials procurement,
prepping the hoppers, keeping an eye on the ovens, etc., etc.

Right. Good analogy. But Wonder Bread doesn't churn out 1.2M loaves a day because they employ 1.2M people to make one loaf a day.

Recruiting and training at scale has an analog: the US military.

You don't go to Lackland and get assigned on a 1:1 basis to a TI: "here, teach this dirtbag how to be an Airman."

No, you get sent there with 200 other lumpy recruits to be shepherded thru the process by a dozen TIs.

Quote
In most wings, the most experienced and capable members not engaged in unit activities,
the ones who could provide the knowledge and manpower to jumpstart things, are usually
in the Groups and Wings - ready with rhetoric about what to do, but rarely willing to roll-up
their sleeves and dig in and help (no "do", help). 

So wait a second.  You mean C/CMSgt Smith, the guy who is already training new cadets, or 1st Lt Johnson, the DCC who is supervising, needs someone from Group or Wing to do the job for them if there's more than just a trickle of members?  Come on, you can't really believe that nothing good will happen at a unit without a wing guy to make it happen.

Quote
To be fair, many at that level have honestly BTDT and have moved on to "other", but one can only
imagine what might get done if the time wasted on SUIs, CIs, arguing about who gets a find,
re-doing websites that work fine, and planning rubber chicken banquets no one cares about,
were actually spent in wrench-turning support of units.

I seem to recall there was a session in SLS called "Squadrons: The Heart of CAP", which apparently
has a "just kidding" during the summary.

TL:DR - Good on 'ye NIN, everyone else do it, but be realistic.

Your cynicism is well noted.

Everybody else: you can do this without a guy from Group or Wing. Seriously.

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Darin Ninness, Lt Col, CAP
Sq Bubba, Wing Dude, National Guy
I like to have Difficult Adult Conversations™
The contents of this post are Copyright © 2007-2019 by NIN. All rights are reserved. Specific permission is given to quote this post here on CAP-Talk only.
TheSkyHornet
Salty & Seasoned Contributor

Posts: 1,747

« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2019, 03:53:51 PM »

We did really good in the past (starting about four years ago) with recruiting where we brought in larger numbers (up to or more than 50% of the then-active cadet corps size). The open houses had large turnouts. But found that we had a lot of cadets who weren't all that invested in being there. It was mainly parents pushing their kids into a program they knew little about. We took anyone and everyone (and still do to an extent). We had very low retention rates of first-year cadets.

We haven't held many open houses now, focusing more on emailing schools and recruiting through social media. The recruit numbers are definitely lower than where we were in the past. The retention is higher though, and we're seeing more dedication and involvement from newer cadets. I think we've done a much better job with talking to parents and making sure their cadets experience more variety when they attend those visitation meetings (they should see what a PT day is like, and AE, and leadership lab).

We're also facing a point right now where, in the last two years (including this one), we had a lot of (relative to our size) older cadets leave for college and losing focus as they grow close to graduating high school. Our average age has definitely shifted (we used to be closer to the 16-year-old average three years back...now closer to 14 as the average).

We're also seeing a much higher rate of military-affiliated families enrolling their kids. I think we've done a significantly greater job at marketing that this is a leadership program and not an aerospace camp, which was the heavy push in the past. Maybe this explains why we had a lot more interest but less personal investment in the previous recruiting drives---targeting the masses with less accurate information of "what we actually do."

I do think our recruiting has run very thin lately from a senior member standpoint. We're very tightly strapped on our Cadet Programs team, being that there are just three of us with a fairly inactive senior member staff outside of direct cadet involvement. We had an awesome Recruiting Officer who parted ways shortly after his son left, and he just doesn't have the personal investment now that he has no personal ties to the program any more.

I definitely think our meeting space has a bit to do with it, since we're not in a glamorous, awing facility in the middle of town. The county seat, which shares our unit name, is about a 20 minute drive away; so the meetings are out in the boonies. We considered relocating last year to a more city-centered facility, but settled on staying put due to the perks we have with our location versus the alternative.

I think we're doing quite well with our cadet activities, and we're doing better as both a Cadet Programs staff and cadet staff in structure and skill. We fall short on messaging and community face.

I should add that our training classes are also held only twice a year---beginning in April and September. We ran three two years ago and it was deathly overwhelming for the staff size we had, both in cadets and seniors. Great aspiration; great planning; horrible execution (despite still retaining the recruits).


Thrilled with our numbers, I'm not. We bring in perhaps 7-10 new recruits a year. We lose maybe 4-5 a year (including actual roster fall-offs and LOAs for college). Last year, the incoming numbers were a bit low for my comfort. We have a class starting next week with 4 (it was supposed to be 5, but one "I plan to submit an application for my son" still never happened; we're going to pull the I.V. out on that one).

I'd like to get back to the bigger class sizes. I just can't put forth more effort to it with myself or my direct team.
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NIN
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Unit: of issue

« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2019, 08:58:27 PM »

My old boss had a coffee cup in the cupboard of the office kitchen that said:

"No one knows
how good you are until
after the sale.

Before they buy, they
only know how good
your marketing is."

This is true for recruiting, too, whatever means you use.  If your cadet program doesn't live up to the hype, you're going to get people who sign on the dotted line and then disappear when they realize that they're not going to be flying Air Force jets tomorrow....

And we all know that cadet programs in units wax and wane for all the reasons you mentioned: cadets head off to college or the military after high school, leaving a leadership vacuum.  We  know it happens, so don't over promise.

This is why its important to keep the pump primed all the time. I've seen too many units hit the pause button on recruiting (or falsely claim "We don't need to recruit, we do just fine") and then they have a good-sized gap in their cadet grade & experience distribution.  C/Capt Highspeed departs for college, leaving C/SMSgt in her wake.

And that can take years to fix.

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Darin Ninness, Lt Col, CAP
Sq Bubba, Wing Dude, National Guy
I like to have Difficult Adult Conversations™
The contents of this post are Copyright © 2007-2019 by NIN. All rights are reserved. Specific permission is given to quote this post here on CAP-Talk only.
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CAP Talk  |  General Discussion  |  Membership  |  Topic: "NIN, does that cohort thing really work?"
 


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