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Army recruiters ‘use AI to speed up checks on candidates’ amid growing concerns over the armed forces’ staffing crisis


Artificial intelligence is being used by the Army to speed up recruitment amid fears of the depleted number of military personnel.

Government contractor Capita uses AI to analyse and summarise medical documents to ensure a candidate is suitable to enlist.

The documents are uploaded by a GP into the system and the technology then converts the information so that emails, documents, voice messages and handwritten notes are in one format for recruiters to analyse.

It comes as the Army is suffering from a staffing crisis over strict rules about tattoos, hay fever and asthma.

Capita previously said the rules should be loosened up, especially because would-be recruits are being ‘attracted elsewhere’ as the time taken to be accepted was so long that they were finding other jobs in the meantime.

Last week, a leaked document also revealed that the Army wants to relax security checks it runs on overseas recruits in an effort to solve the growing staffing crisis.

Artificial intelligence is being used by the Army to speed up recruitment amid fears of depleted number of military personnel. Pictured: Junior soldiers take part in their graduation parade at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate

Artificial intelligence is being used by the Army to speed up recruitment amid fears of depleted number of military personnel. Pictured: Junior soldiers take part in their graduation parade at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate

Last week, a furious Grant Shapps ordered a review into the British Army's woke nonsense' inclusion policy following reports it wants to relax security checks for overseas recruits

Last week, a furious Grant Shapps ordered a review into the British Army’s woke nonsense’ inclusion policy following reports it wants to relax security checks for overseas recruits

Former military personnel told the i newspaper that AI could be a ‘valuable tool’, but more is needed to be done and the tech shouldn’t be used as a ‘shield’ if things go wrong.

The AI is designed to improve efficiency as in the past, 40,000 medical documents a year needed to be delivered by GPs and assessed by recruiting staff manually, the i reported,

The standard health record analysed by recruiters is between 50-100 pages long and takes an hour per applicant, without the use of AI.

But a Capita source told the i that the introduction of the new technology had reduced total application times by 25 per cent since 2016.

Speaking to MPs, Captia previously blamed the staffing shortage and recruitment issues on the strict rules in the Army.

People who have tattoos on their necks, face or hands, a history of asthma and hay fever, as well as those who had broken bones when they were children, are being denied entry, it said.

Richard Holroyd, Leader of complex Operations, Turnaround and Transformational Change at the firm, added that restrictions on people with high body mass index (BMI) mean that the ‘current England rugby team would struggle to join the army’.

The firm revealed that some would-be soldiers with tattoos in restricted places had been taken through the recruitment process after being told they might have to have the markings removed, and that a Capita ‘hardship fund’ had been provided for those who might not be able to pay for the procedures.

Capita previously said the rules should be loosened up, especially because would-be recruits are being 'attracted elsewhere' as the time taken to be accepted was too long

Capita previously said the rules should be loosened up, especially because would-be recruits are being ‘attracted elsewhere’ as the time taken to be accepted was too long

MPs were told that Capita had succeeded in lowering the barrier for entry for applicants who have a history of asthma, and wishes to do the same for those with a record hay fever.  Pictured: Cadets line up for inspection during The Commandmants Parade at Sandhurst

MPs were told that Capita had succeeded in lowering the barrier for entry for applicants who have a history of asthma, and wishes to do the same for those with a record hay fever.  Pictured: Cadets line up for inspection during The Commandmants Parade at Sandhurst 

He insisted the firm was ‘completely committed to working to drive recruitment up’ and it understood ‘the importance of this to the nation and to the Armed Forces which we serve’, the Times reported.

MPs were told that Capita had succeeded in lowering the barrier for entry for applicants who have a history of asthma, and wishes to do the same for those with a record hay fever.

Previous rules meant recruits had to have avoided any flare ups of asthma for four years before joining the Army, but this has now been reduced to two years, with plans to lower it further to one year.

Maria Mallet, chief operating officer for Capita’s Recruitment Partnership Project, said the firm would like to do the same for hay fever.

Capita was given a 10-year contract to handle recruitment by the Ministry of Defence in 2012 at a cost of £495million.

This was extended for a further two years at a cost of £140million in 2020, but the firm is forecast to miss its target this year.

It had hoped to recruit 9,813 people between April 2023 and April 2024, but so far has only managed to bring around 5,000 on board.

According to data from Labour, the Royal Navy recruited 730 sailors below expected last year, while the Royal Marines missed their target by 300 in the same period.

It comes after the Mail revealed that officer candidates who failed part of the Army’s rigorous selection procedure are still being accepted for training.

Due to the unprecedented recruitment crisis, the prestigious Royal Military Academy Sandhurst has lowered its entry standards and – for the first time – applicants who did not make the grade at the Army Officer Selection Board (AOSB) have been taken on.

In December the Army confirmed that passing AOSB was no longer a stipulation for entry to Sandhurst. Pictured is the Military Academy Sandhurst Sovereign's Parade

In December the Army confirmed that passing AOSB was no longer a stipulation for entry to Sandhurst. Pictured is the Military Academy Sandhurst Sovereign’s Parade

In December the Army confirmed that passing AOSB was no longer a stipulation for entry to Sandhurst.

It said its ‘assessment methodology’ had been reviewed, to include a ‘greater emphasis on a candidate’s capacity to develop even, if they narrowly missed out on passing AOSB under the previous criteria’.

‘This helps us maximise the potential of all aspiring officers and has no impact on the standard required to commission into the British Army from RMAS.’

The Army has also scrapped a 12-week preparation course for candidates who only just made the grade at AOSB. They are to proceed directly to Sandhurst.

But last week, a furious Grant Shapps ordered a review into the British Army’s woke nonsense’ inclusion policy following reports it wants to relax security checks for overseas recruits to boost diversity.

The Defence Secretary said there will be no ‘lowering of security clearance requirements on my watch’ after a leaked internal policy document outlined a series of actions that aim to boost falling personnel numbers.

Privately, senior officers conceded the current recruiting environment is ‘challenging’.

Under current plans, the Army will be reduced to just 73,000 full-time soldiers by 2025, with further cuts expected. There is also a £17billion shortfall in defence funding, according to the National Audit Office.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said last month that he was worried the make-up of the military did not reflect wider society and insisted more should be done to attract and retain women.

Discussing his plans to tackle the crisis, Mr Shapps told the Telegraph: ‘Something which I’m extremely passionate about is actually having a military which should represent our country as it is today.

It can’t be right that our military still only has 11 or 12 per cent women, for example, when you make up half the population.’ 

Women make up just a fraction of Britain’s military, comprising about 11.3 per cent of the whole force. Recent figures showed 13.8 per cent of all officers in the forces were female. However, there were just 24 women holding top positions.

The RAF has the biggest representation, with 16 per cent of its personnel being female. In the Royal Navy the figure is 13 per cent. For the Army it’s just 10.3 per cent.

Mr Shapps has previously denied that the numbers of recruits are a cause for concern.

In 2019, the Commons Defence select committee labelled the performance of the Army Forces and Capita in terms of recruitment as  ‘abysmal’.

General Sir Patrick Sanders, the outgoing Chief of the General Staff

General Sir Patrick Sanders, the outgoing Chief of the General Staff

General Sir Patrick Sanders, the outgoing Chief of the General Staff, said that Britain needs a ‘citizen army’ but even that would be ‘not enough’ as he pointed to allies in eastern and northern Europe ‘laying the foundations for national mobilisation’.

In a speech last month, the general – who has been openly critical of staff shortages in the military – said boosting Army numbers in preparation for a potential conflict would need to be a ‘whole-of-nation undertaking’.

The comments are being seen as a warning that British men and women should be ready for a call-up to the armed forces if Nato goes to war with Russia.

But Downing Street later hit back at the suggestion, insisting there were no plans for conscription.

A Capita spokesperson told the i newspaper: ‘Face-to-face contact and engagement with serving personnel will always be at the heart of Army recruitment, but there are parts of the process which have become quicker, simpler and more effective through the use of artificial intelligence technology. 

‘We are deploying these tools to streamline recruitment, get people into basic training faster, and help prevent candidates from dropping out.’

The Ministry of Defence and Capita have been approached for comment.



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