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Monday 18 December 2017

Army chiefs to target transition year students in next recruitment round

Commandant Jayne Lawlor
Commandant Jayne Lawlor
Defence Forces Commandant Jayne Lawlor
Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

Transition year students will be targeted during the Defence Forces next bid to recruit more women.

Up to 12pc of applications for general service were from women following a recent campaign through social media, sports clubs and schools, up from 10pc in 2012.

Army chiefs don’t expect to see a huge rise in the numbers actually recruited later this month, but hopes a longer-term campaign will reap results.

Commandant Jayne Lawlor wrote to 400 schools nationwide as part of the initiative, with staff visiting Leaving Cert pupils in the 140 that replied.

She said while the response from schools was disappointing, the reaction from the teenage girls wasn’t.

“Every time we visited a school you could see the statistics going up,”  said the Defence Forces’ gender, equality and diversity officer.

“A lot of the students had already made up their mind about what they wanted to do, so next time we will go in to transition year classes.

“We will also look at taking students in for work experience in the barracks so they can get a taste of what military life is like, but that won’t be until next year or the year after.”

More than 9,000 men and women are in the Defence Forces, supported by 2,326 reserves.

The recruitment drive – which closed several months ago – will see another 400 permanent members and 400 reserves join its ranks.

A fifth of all applications to its cadetship were women, which is similar to previous years, it added.

The first women joined the Defence Forces in 1980 and the number has grown to more than 560 across the Army, Air Corps and Navy - more than 6pc of the forces.

Comdt Lawlor served in Lebanon, Liberia and Kosovo before the  birth of her son, but was one of seven Irish troops based at NATO headquarters in Kabul in Afghanistan after his birth.

The 39-year-old admits it was tougher leaving her son and three stepchildren at home with husband Derek than being on tour.

However family friendly measures are being put in place to help women, and fathers who are the primary care givers, progress through the ranks.

Comdt Lawlor said army chiefs are also considering opening its doors to the public.

“We will explore the possibility of holding open days in the future so people in communities can visit barracks instead of them being hidden behind big walls,” she added.

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