Formed in 1920, the Royal Corps of Signals are leaders in IT, Cyber and Telecommunications, providing battle winning communications to every part of the Army. From wireless telegraphy and radios, to packet switching and modern IP networks, the Corps has embraced every technological change to keep the UK at the forefront of modern defence. Seeing the manipulation of information and technology evolving at a faster pace as their centenary year approached, HQ Royal Signals initiated a project to ensure that the Army remain at the cutting edge in 2020.
Project CADUCEUS is a complex, far-reaching project, putting information advantage and cyber expertise at the centre of a modern technical culture, at the heart of the Royal Corps of Signals. The name CADUCEUS - the staff carried by Hermes in Greek mythology - signifies the messenger’s ancient weapon used in a very modern fight.
Over ten years, Project CADUCEUS will drive a huge culture change across the Royal Corps of Signals, which is driving an information revolution for the British Army and, ultimately, for Defence.
Only with this approach can the tactical and strategic information requirements of the British Army be met, for a complex and ever-changing operational environment. In support of the vision, over the next ten years, CADUCEUS will deliver a culture change where personnel will be trained to become digital engineers with the ethos ‘technical first, soldier always’.
The learning shift
Delivery of the vision required shifting from the long residential courses that took personnel away from their units (and families) for months on end. The whole way of learning was transformed to include shorter, modular courses, less residential learning and increasingly more remote, blended and digital delivery.
Personnel of all ranks are now required to ‘up-skill’ to meet the newly defined levels of expertise for technical, cyber and information agility. In support of this, a new operating model has been implemented to provide:
- new career pathways for soldiers and officers;
- a ‘talent management’ system;
- an agile and flexible learning & development system;
- competencies aligned to industry;
- a through-life learning & development offer.
A learning service to meet students’ needs
In response to the need for a shift in learning and development, the CADUCEUS team put together a facilitation service, where courses can be accessed remotely. Personnel can use various learning platforms (such as Linkedin Learning, MS Learn and CompTIA Certmaster Learn) which provides them with the flexibility to tailor their learning to suit their own chosen career paths and personal commitments.
Here are what some personnel have had to say about the online learning experience:
‘It was very easy to fit it around work / family life due to on-demand, modular training delivery.’
A wide range of subjects is available to personnel, all with online study and broken down into modules, virtual classrooms demos and labs; with practice tests and full exams which can be taken remotely.
‘Various videos to watch, usually each one has a max length of 40 mins, although many are a lot shorter, which makes it easy to fit learning in when time is short.’
Delegates apply via the CADUCEUS team, who track course allocation per individual and monitor collective success rates against expenditure, periodically reviewing requirements for ‘new’ courses to keep up with demand and technology.
‘Access has been excellent; quick, agile and cooperative’.
A wide selection of courses is available to all Royal Signals regular and reserve personnel. These courses give the qualifications required of the new ‘technical’ soldier and are aligned to qualifications required by industry. The onus is on the individual to decide (as approved by the chain of command) on their chosen career path, apply for courses and manage their time for study.
Subjects studied include:
- P3M courses such as PRINCE, Agile, Scrum;
- Server Administration, Cloud, Client, Software and Coding courses;
- Electrical Engineering;
- Data Analytics, AI/ML and Data Science;
- Cyber Security;
- and CompTIA A+, N+, ASP, S+, Server, Cloud Essentials +, Pen Test, Linux+ and ITFS+.
The impact of COVID-19
As we approached lockdown in March 2020, the CADUCEUS team worked hard to ensure all courses could be accessed either remotely or virtually. The process for course and exam allocation remained unchanged, with the team and delegates working remotely - and this is still the case (as of July 2020). Here, we share some feedback from candidates who seized lockdown as an opportunity for professional development.
‘The exams I have taken over the last 3 months were taken in my living room as I do not have the luxury of having a spare ‘office’.’
With many people at home during lockdown, this has been the perfect time for people to catch up on their learning - and they certainly have. Demand has been high for most courses, with personnel (military, plus some civilian instructors) seeking qualifications.
‘Revision aides supplied by Certmaster and CompTIA are very good and help me assess the level I am at and what I need to do to get myself ready for the exam. I really enjoyed this course.’
Some courses have even been added to meet demand and course content has been tailored accordingly.
‘A strange experience, knowing there was an exam proctor carefully watching you over your webcam making sure you couldn’t cheat, I was even told to stop scratching my chin!’
Most of the exams are taken at home, with only a few requiring testing centres (which are soon to open). Modern technology also assists with the ‘home’ exams process, with delegates monitored virtually whilst they take the exam.
'Studying these courses in my own home was a bonus. My wife was at home, so I was able to commit a lot of time to personal learning whilst she managed home learning for the children.’
The ability to be able to study without the ‘day job’ getting in the way, or even having to travel to a physical classroom environment, has given people both the time and the freedom to learn - not just at their own pace but at the times that suit their families and other commitments.
In short, taking the exam and the experience of studying at home whilst juggling family life, home schooling (and pandemic considerations) has been very positive.
(R Sigs) personnel are now realising what an important part these qualifications will play, not just for their Army career, but for equipping them with the skills needed for collaboration pan-Army, across Defence (UK and beyond) and with industry. Here’s what they had to say:
- ‘…will continue enhancing my portfolio to assist daily work to obtain skills for the future.’
- ‘Post military service, there will be huge benefits when applying for jobs in industry, reducing the burden for personnel trying to align relatable military equivalents.’
- ‘These qualifications will benefit me immediately and allow me credibility when engaging with partners, other Govt depts and MOD reps.’
The benefits gained from the learning journey, the new qualifications and the resulting ‘technical’ soldier are expected to be far-reaching for both the individual and the British Army. Benefits are expected to include:
- Empowered personnel, actively involved in their career - each following their chosen path;
- improved recruiting and retention - a more attractive package / motivated personnel;
- an adaptable and agile workforce - experts who are effective in MOD and industry;
- improved credibility with partners - always keeping abreast of emerging technology.
2020 has been the centenary year of the Royal Corps of Signals and, despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, the Corps has stayed true to its motto of ‘certa cito’ (Latin for ‘swift and sure’). It is rapidly updating the technical and leadership skills required to carry out its three main roles; delivery of agile and digital data services, exploiting adversaries’ data whilst protecting its own, and advising commanders on the best use of information capabilities in traditional and emerging battlespaces.
Ultimately, this will underpin information manoeuvre, win the fight for information advantage, and enable integrated action across a modernised Armed Forces.