Preparing Leaders for the Civilian and Business World

Alastair field mbe,  Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel

I have the had the privilege to command Cambridge OTC since I took
over in September last year.

For the uninitiated, OTCs have been in existence since the Second Boer War, after the 1908 Lord Haldane Reforms. One of the key areas of the reforms was to improve the supply of Officers to the Army in wartime.

OTCs now span 180 universities and Higher Education establishments in the UK, supplying about 40% of regular commissions and 65% of reserve commissions. My Unit’s recruiting area is Cambridgeshire and Norfolk with the majority of my cadets coming from Cambridge University and the University of East Anglia. I am charged with trying to get as many high calibre young men and women into Sandhurst; for the 80% though, that don’t seek to become either regular or reserve officers, it is equally important that I prepare them for the rigours of life in business or industry. If they have enjoyed and benefitted from their OTC experience, we hope they can become champions of the Army in society.

Mental and physical resilience, communication and planning skills and building/leading teams are clearly desirable and transferable skills. Through a combination of military, adventure training and sport/social events, Cambridge OTC develops leaders over the course of their degrees. Banks, such as Morgan Stanley and Barclays are now realising the potential of this trained talent pool and are seeking strategic relationships with the Sandhurst Group.

I have asked three of my cadets to provide some vignettes of how their experiences of the OTC has given them the edge of their contemporaries. I hope the readers of the East Anglia in Business magazine, will also use this article to recruit for their own businesses.

Senior Under Officer Phoebe Russell 

Being an Officer Cadet has provided me with extracurricular enjoyment and opportunities – a taste of military life, sporting endeavours and new friendships, whilst at university. However, it is the long-term benefits to reap following graduation that have proven invaluable, specifically relating to job applications and career prospects.

I would account my success in achieving numerous job offers following multiple interviews and assessment days, to being an active member of the UOTC. In these scenarios, I have been able to effortlessly discuss a multitude of interesting experiences, where I have developed and proven my skillset. I have been able to think quickly and focus under pressure during rigorous assessment day tasks. This is due to being regularly exposed to and challenged by physically and mentally demanding undertakings in the OTC.

Employers were particularly impressed with my organisation skills and capacity to efficiently prioritise my workload, skills demonstrated alongside teamwork and leadership, often in challenging and unique circumstances; including a recent defence engagement exercise to Jordan. Character-defining experiences such as these have been immense in my personal development. I have become a well-rounded personality, able to effectively communicate and work within diverse teams.

For the committed individual, the OTC offers an incomparable training environment. One that is conducive to success, with countless opportunities to learn, develop and mature. I am confident that my enhanced skillset will assist me immeasurably in the future, as I work through my career.

Officer Cadet Charlotte Lee

OTC has been instrumental in nurturing my leadership skills, and given me many different opportunities to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I have completed presenting and command tasks, and had experiences to challenge myself that were helpful in securing an internship with the Bank of England over the summer.

During the selection process I was faced with different scenarios where I applied a lot of skills I have learnt from OTC. Being able to take a moment, assess the situations, and bring a group together to achieve the task at hand, were all things I developed with the OTC. During the individual interviews, I used OTC scenarios to evidence my skills which I believe helped me to stand out.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with OTC so far and I know it has provided me with a set of skills I can use in my life after university. It has pushed me past academics to learn more about myself; how I deal with pressure, the characteristics I possess as a leader, and how to motivate myself and others when things get tough.

I believe OTC has helped me build my resilience by doing things I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do just with university alone. I have also made some really strong friendships I hope to keep for many years to come.

Officer Cadet Ismay Keane

I joined the OTC in my second year of university because I wanted to diversify my CV and challenge myself whilst studying. The OTC proved to be the perfect way to do that as well as to gain new skills whilst developing those I already had. The OTC has taught me most importantly to work in high pressure situations with a clear head and an analytical frame of mind. In addition, possibly most usefully for my future as a lawyer, I have also developed more strongly the ability to work with little sleep! I have been able to test significantly my leadership and teamwork skills at the OTC and the staff have been sure to give leadership opportunities to cadets.

Where I have not been a leader I have instead been working within a team. The OTC is all about team effort and the creation of not only strong and efficient groups of people on exercise, but also friends external to the action. As a result I have both been challenged to work well with other people and have gained friendships for life! I believe the OTC has stood me in very good stead for job applications and has hugely diversified my CV, which was specifically mentioned in a successful vacation scheme interview I had! I will always be glad I joined because I feel that my university experience was greatly enriched by the OTC and I’m sure that both my professional and personal life after my graduation will also be enriched.

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