There aren’t enough STEM graduates in the UK - the RN is not alone in a shortfall in applicants. Given that even 20 years ago quite a few of them were being grabbed by the financial industry (that can pay silly money) or into bleeding edge tech firms, I can’t imagine it’s much different.
200 Officer “applicants” - what do you mean by this? 200 extra at AIB, 200 to medical (noting some fail), 200 to sift or 200 making an expression of interest via the website? ARRSE has some fairly good numbers on what that actually means, but 200 to AIB = c20,000 looking at the website (IIRC).
Given that the people we have in Service are good enough, why would we waste time and money in actively attracting too many people? There is a fine line of diminishing returns.
Finally, I’m not sure how true it is we’re falling short in recruiting in the main. I’ll check when I’m back at work, but everything I know relates to retention - in particular at the 4-6 year point.
But a lack of retention means there is a crisis coming especially if training can't keep up. Either the navy needs to fix it's retention crisis or increase its training abilities (which would coincidentally get rid of a lot of the waiting times)
And it just seems a very pessimistic attitude to say that the current applicants are "good enough". You should be trying to get the best of the best while also fixing the retention issues.
Either way between the retention issues and the lack of training ability the navy is headed toward a crisis. And it needs to fix it. It won't fix itself. It'll only get worse