The Tower Handbook

9.2: Recruitment

a: When should we recruit?

When you can sensibly devote enough time to training the new recruits and absorbing them into the band. That means when the previous intake has been integrated and they are moving on successfully. It is reasonable to assume you always need recruits so you should take them at a rate that will maximise success. Remember that even if you have enough members now you should allow for unforeseen departures.

You could consider recruiting enough new learners once a year so that you will have one or two members of the band at each stage of development: call changes, elementary method ringing etc. Developing your members at all stages should then become a normal activity that you can all take part in, rather than an occasional thing that intrudes on normal tower life.

b: Should you ever reject a potential recruit?

If recruits are rare, then an unpromising one may be better than nothing. But in many cases this is not so. Over the years, there is a supply of potential recruits, but they are lost so the band has to keep recruiting more to make up for the wastage. If you are in this situation then you are pouring all your efforts into people you lose.

There may be a better way. See section 9.2d.

Would the reqruit in the picture be unsuitable?

It may be better to be more selective, taking fewer recruits, and investing more in training, developing and motivating each one to increase your chance of retention. This would mean rejecting some. The difficulty is deciding which ones are likely to succeed. There are no guaranteed ways of doing this, but look back over your past recruits and see what those who have been successful had in common. This may suggest the type of thing to look for.

c: How many should we recruit at once?

Recruiting is the easy bit. Think ahead and balance quantity of recruits with the quality of the training experience you will be able to give them as they progress. One or two at once is fine. One will benefit from individual attention and two will provide company for each other (especially helpful for youngsters). A lot of bands take more than two at once, but they rarely keep many. Teaching large numbers to handle is not too much of a problem. Once you get them handling safely, two or three of you can effectively supervise quite a crowd.

The problem comes when they start to ring with the rest of the band and compete with each other for the available rope time. The more of them there are the less time they will each get. On balance it is better to take small numbers, well spaced out so that by the time the next ones arrive, they are able to fill in usefully, as well as waiting for a touch for their own benefit.

d: Should we take on more to allow for wastage?

Talk to people who have trained 'more ringers than you have had hot dinners' and many will say that you have to teach six (or even more) for every one you expect to stay the course. We suspect this is a self fulfilling prophecy. Taking on many learners together gives each of them a poor deal (see above). They either get less ringing each or they all ring together in much poorer quality ringing that does not help them to progress.

There will always be some losses. After all, ringing recruits are accepted without any preselection to filter out those who might be unsuitable, but the losses will be reduced if each recruit feels wanted and has the best training we can give him or her. That means modest numbers starting at once.

e: What age should we recruit?

You can teach people of almost any age, but you may have problems at the extremes. Very young children may not have the weight and strength. Also check your insurance cover for the very young and old. See section 7.6.

Most youngsters learn easily, but can lose interest if not constantly stimulated. They are likely to re-locate at the age of 18 [84]. Older people learn less quickly but are more likely to remain with you and become valued members of the band. Teach a young person and you are investing in the future of ringing. Teach an older person and you are likely to be investing in the future of your own band.

As people live longer, have fitter lives, retire early and take up new activities, ringing may be one of the beneficiaries.

You're never too old to learn – see picture.

f: Where do we find new recruits?

Your families and friends provide a likely source of recruits. You can build an initial relationship to help, if progress starts to flag. Children of ringers are often good recruits, and you know they have parental backing. When one child starts to learn, a sibling will often insist on learning at the same time. That way you get two recruits for the price of one bit of recruitment. Sometimes the influence is the other way round and the parents will be encouraged to learn to ring after they have been to see their children in action with a bell rope.

Your church congregation is another obvious source. They have a vested interest in the church, and you have ready access to them. Try advertising in the parish magazine, or the weekly notice sheets. You could hold a coffee morning after the service with information on display, or hold an open practice. See section 8.4j.

g: Should we recruit from the choir?

Church choirs are traditional recruiting grounds for ringers. Youngsters in the choir have already become used to the commitment needed to turn up regularly Sunday by Sunday. In their early teens their interest in the choir may wane (especially boys when their voices break). Ringing may help prevent them drifting away from the church, by offering a new challenge.

If you have a good relationship with the musical director, he or she may be happy to refer likely candidates to you.

If potential recruits wish to stay in the choir as well as ringing, make sure they understand, and can cope with, the extra demand of more practices per week and nearly twice as long performing for each service.

h: Should we recruit outside the congregation?

Opinions differ. There are advantages in having ringers who identify with the church and its objectives, but that does not mean they will be good ringers or that they will turn up regularly to ring for one, two or more services each week. Some incumbents insist that all the ringers should be members of the congregation, but this is rare and rather negative, since ringing can bring non church goers closer to the Church.

i: Should we take youngsters doing badges?

Some people believe that scouts and guides doing a ringer's badge will give up ringing as soon as they get the badge. On the other hand, a good welcoming band should be able to make ringing attractive enough to retain the interest of someone who has made that much progress. It is not at all clear that youngsters whose initial interest is based on a badge will be any more likely to give up ringing than their contemporaries who learn for other reasons. The Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme places more emphasis on service and commitment in its requirements for bellringing than the Scouts and Guides badges do.

j: How do you ensure trainees will be committed and regular?

You can't guarantee it, but if you explain what is expected before you start, it will reduce the risk. Explain that the main purpose of ringing is to ring for services, mostly on Sundays. Some people volunteer to learn to ring without being aware of the regular commitment, once or twice on Sundays and practices. Explain also that continuity is vital for learning. Irregular attenders mess everyone around, take longer to become proficient and need more lessons, so you invest more of your time in them.

k: Should you ever give up with a hopeless trainee?

Yes sometimes, but it is a very hard decision to make. Normally you are spared the responsibility because the 'no-hoper' gives up anyway. If you do consider giving up with anyone, you should ask whether it is the student or the teaching that is failing. Try swapping to a different tutor who might have a slightly different approach that works with the individual concerned.

If after trying everything, you still have someone unable to control a bell well enough to ring rounds, then you have two options. Either carry on spending your band's time supporting a ringer crashing around and gaining nothing from the experience, or explain to the trainee that the situation is not acceptable. The unfortunate trainee probably knows that he or she is making no progress but feels obliged to continue rather than waste the time you have already invested.

Either discuss the possibility of stopping or offer a period of intensive coaching on a 'make or break' basis. Prolonging the current situation helps no one. The band's time and effort would be better spent on promising trainees, and your failed trainee's time would be better spent doing something else. Nothing is certain of course. Some good ringers were nearly given up as unteachable years before.

l: What is successful recruiting?

Successful recruiting means that you end up with useful long term members of your band, say two years hence. It does not necessarily mean a tower full of young hopefuls the week after your recruiting drive. Recruiting is only the beginning, not an end in itself. You can only judge the effectiveness of recruiting, training and development together. And remember that your recruiting is still successful if your recruits move on to become members of someone else's band. The important thing is that they should be ringing somewhere. In return, you may have gained someone trained elsewhere.

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