Members of Belgium’s air force are being offered a day off work if they manage to bring two recruits into the service.
The offer is the latest attempt by the armed forces to fill hundreds of vacancies in the different branches.
Earlier this month the armed forces set up shop in Wijnegem shopping centre near Antwerp, to carry out a major recruitment drive among members of the public. The Belgian military is about 2,000 members short of its ideal establishment.
The set-up at Wijnegem includes a full field hospital complete with doctors, soldiers and nurses, as well as military vehicles and an operating room.
The mobile recruitment centre will remain in the shopping centre for a month.
“In one week we organised just under 200 speed-date meetings and 36 in-depth interviews, where spend an hour personally informing anyone interested. Among those 36 were 13 women, and 21 of the 36 have in the meantime signed up for selection,” said commandant Johan Coenen.
The latest initiative is an invitation to members of the air force working in a technical post: if they can manage to ring in two potential recruits, they get an extra day off. All they have to do is come along with two interested friends to the Open Day at the Saffraanberg school for non-commissioned officers in Sint-Truiden in Limburg.
The aim is to fill 500 open vacancies, which the defence ministry says it is having great trouble in filling, thanks to tough competition from the private sector. For technical jobs in particular, the shortage of qualified applicants is a problem across the whole of industry.
The initiative has, however, fallen on stony ground among union representatives.
“The way the defence department is going downhill these days, I’m afraid there are few people who would recommend their job to anyone else,” said Walter Van Den Broeck of the ACV/CSC union.
“In the coming years there will be record numbers of members of the military going in pension. Our criticism is that [the department] is forgetting serving members with all these recruitment drives. The result is that even fewer are proud of their job, let alone being prepared to recommend it to others.”