Join the RFA as an ex RN WE Officer

Discussion in 'RFA' started by President, Jan 5, 2014.

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  1. Hi folks,

    I'm ex-RN WE Officer - left RN (with WE Charge Certification) on completion of my SCC. With 20+ years left of my career, I'm giving consideration to joining the RFA at the ripe old age of 45. Looks to me as though the most suitable career option may be as a SEO. I would also be keen on Deck Officer, but it looks like this means starting from scratch, which I don't imagine that I could afford to do! Are there any readers out there who have been down this path?

    I'd be interested to know about your experiences, RFA career progression/prospects and even understand more basic issues such as if I would need to do the whole AIB/Dartmouth experience again?

    Also, how much of a deal-breaker is the '4 of last 5 year residency' requirement? I have been working overseas for a number of years, but can't see why this should be such an issue - presumably just requires an extended Security check! Would really appreciate any feedback on this.

  2. Hi President and welcome to the forum. Some of your questions will need to be answered by the RFA recruiting team at Portsmouth but I can help you with some of the others.

    You probably would need to start from scratch for Deck but I can't comment on SEO as that would depend on if you have the relevant qualifications to be a systems engineer. The pay isn't great as a first year cadet but it's not horrendous (though I guess it depends on what you class as horrendous). I am pretty sure that an AIB pass is valid for 12 months so you'd have to go through the whole process from the start, which is: telephone call to recruiting to check eligibility; receive and fill out application form; paper sift; sift interview; AIB and then the last bits- medical, SC, jabs and discharge book.

    The RFA course at Dartmouth is it's own unique beast and of course you'd have to do it, it's actually a requirement of any job offer to do it. You probably wouldn't find it taxing but you would come away from it having learnt a reasonable amount. Be prepared to be one of the oldest RFA cadets there (and RN OCs for that matter) but with age comes experience ;)
  3. Nitpick point: SEO is like WEO. You start as an SE officer and at 1st Officer or Chief Officer level are appointed to a ship as SEO.

    Year 1 as a cadet is about £15,600, year 2 about £16,400, year 3 £17,200. These are from a couple of years ago and cadet pay is one of the few that has been increased over the last couple of years, so it will be a little more now, maybe by around £500.

    The SE branch was 14 bodies short just before Christmas and the RFA is frankly desperate, though not yet fully acting like it. See this topic for more info: Might help if you PM Ivor Combes (post #11) as he is a 1/O(SE) in a shore post and will probably have a very good idea of how you can proceed to best effect. They are even more desperately short of marine engineers, though you would have to follow more of a cadetship approach than if joining as an SE (shortcuts may be available depending on what engineering qualifications you hold and how the MCA recognises them).

    RFAIB is reportedly on the way out, though how soon I do not know, and has not been applied to at least some of those coming directly from the RN. Dartmouth is proving harder to shrug off, though I do know of ex-RN officers who have skipped it, but OTOH others have been sent. It's worth arguing the toss if you don't fancy doing it again.
  4. £15,800 for a year one cadet doing the foundation degree cadetship. HND pays slightly less.
  5. Are you sure it's the course rather than the joining qualifications that determines the pay scale? It used to be the qualifications. Obviously joining qualifications can influence which course you are sent on, but I'd like to be clear on cause and effect.
  6. I can only comment on what I know. That's what I've been led to believe - happy to be wrong.
  7. Thanks Megalopteron and Bluebird - very useful responses. Appreciate it. I have read the linked thread and the SE salaries was useful for comparison. Do you have a feel for how soon after starting as 3/O (SE) you could expect promotion (with a fair wind)?

    I will PM Ivor Combes as suggested (and of course recruitment) to follow-up.

  8. I've been led to believe that it's a good time to progress right now (presuming you have the right tickets).
  9. Tricky to say. Promotion results have just been (or are about to be) announced for a swathe of SEs, but the preceding board was perhaps 3-4 years ago. HR have promised more frequent boards, for what HR's promises are worth. The vacuum at 1/O and 2/O level should draw a lot of people up.

    The minimum criteria for promotion from 3/O(SE) to 2/O(SE) was incredibly lax: one report of "fitted" (options are "well-fitted", "fitted", "likely to become fitted", "not fitted"). In other branches it is common to require "well-fitted" or at least multiple "fitted". No courses required to have been completed, no other criteria.

    Be aware that junior officer roles in the RFA are not necessarily similar to their apparent equivalents in the RN - you don't really manage anyone but yourself until 1/O or C/O level, and most of the work you will be doing is practical hands-on engineering. The SE department on a large ship will consist of something like 1 x C/O, 1 x 1/O, 2 x 2/O, 1 x 3/O, 1 or 2 x PO(SE). On a small ship there's just a 1/O, 2/O and a PO(SE). You can expect to be Duty SE at a rate of 1 in 3 or 4.
  10. Interesting terminology on the promotion criteria! So, is promotion only by Board every number of years? I had been under the impression from other threads that vacancies were filled from below as they became available. Maybe not?

    Also, on a related topic, are you aware of any particular reason for the current shortage in the SE Branch? Just a cyclic thing or a competition among the Merchant Navy?
  11. Promotion is by board at irregular (and of late infrequent) intervals. Between boards there are sometimes opportunities (at times extended opportunities) for temporary-acting promotion.

    Competition from within the Merchant Navy for SEs (ETOs in Merchant parlance) is fairly weak. Most of those leaving at present are being attracted to better pay and conditions in other industries - offshore energy (oil/gas) and apparently windfarm installation projects are a big draw (HV qualifications valued).

    There is something of a cycle over the longer term (10+ years) where the RFA falls behind competing sectors or industries, then there is a big improvement in pay and conditions to bring it into line, and then a relative decline again until the next crisis forces action. At present it looks like a crisis is forcing action and pay and/or conditions may improve significantly in the short-medium term. Not holding my breath though...
  12. I would add to Megalopteron's comments that the long delay in holding promotion boards was also a contributing factor, plus the stresses associated with being short staffed constantly (In my last 5 trips we have always had one billet gapped for at least part of the appointment).

    Another wave of departures which is not often chatted about is retirement, we are at that part of the RFA's cycles where the Senior SE staff are just that and a lot of the junior officers are on their second career (a fair few of them ex-RN senior rates, plus a few ex WE officers).

    Whatever the reasons for the outflux, it will mean that experienced and knowledgeable incomers will have the opportunity to advance relatively quickly; I believe one of the guys recently promoted to 2/O (SE) was formerly an RN DWEO.

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