Giving cadets a voice

Young people from across the UK gathered to share ideas, bring about change and shape their experience at Cadet Conference

“Cadets should have a voice because in the end it’s our organisation.” So said royal marines cadet Kwame, 13, of Wolverhampton RMCD, when summing up the importance of Cadet Conference 2024. “If we have a voice, we can tailor Sea Cadets to our needs and help everyone have a better experience.” 

Young voices were given a platform in a series of interactive workshops co-designed for cadets, by cadets – with topics ranging from collaboration between sea cadets and royal marines cadets, to what makes a great volunteer. All the creative ideas confirmed that Cadet Conference plays a major role in making Sea Cadets even more inclusive and relevant to young people today.   

Kwame at Cadet Conference
Royal marines cadet Kwame (second from left) Kwame says it’s important for cadets to have a voice

Judging by the positive reaction from almost 300 young attendees, the weekend at South Yorkshire’s Kingswood Activity Centre was time well spent. “My 13-year-old had a fantastic time learning skills that schools just don’t teach,” said one parent. 

The water quality campaign session was one example: “It’s something I hadn’t really thought about until I did the workshop,” said Able Cadet Fraser, 14, from Northern Area. “It has opened my mind to the importance of knowing we’re boating in water that is clean and safe.” 

Cadet Conference 2024
Cadets gathered from across the UK

By showing cadets how to carry out water-quality tests, the workshop brought home the real-world impact of climate change and pollution on local wildlife and global ecosystems. And, because the weekend was all about empowering cadets to use their voice, the workshop also showed them how to use their evidence to raise awareness and persuade decision-makers to take action. (Read more about our water quality project here.)

Speaking up 

As ever, the central purpose of Cadet Conference was using cadets’ in-depth knowledge of Sea Cadets to make it even better. And with the charity’s senior management team in attendance, Fraser explained how cadets appreciated the chance to “express thoughts and opinions to people who can actually exercise change”.

Cadet Conference 2024

Fraser added: “The ’no rank policy’ [ranks and titles were left at home for the weekend] really highlights that your opinion does matter. We all feel like we can speak and be listened to.”

 ‘I’ve enjoyed seeing cadets that we don’t normally see, sharing ideas and making bonds that will hopefully last a lifetime’

Cadet Corporal Colin, 17, Eastern Area

But with so many strong opinions being raised, cadets also had to learn the importance of listening to others. “I have made many friends from all areas and been exposed to a range of viewpoints because of people’s different backgrounds,” said Leading Cadet Keira, 16, from South West Area. “It has given me a better understanding of those differences, and we’ve discussed how to improve co-operation and worked on our teamwork skills.”

Cadet conference 2024
Cadets get a chance to share ideas and make friends

The warm and friendly atmosphere created by the event organisers (led by the young people of the National Cadet Voice team) gave everyone the confidence to speak up. “I really loved how everyone was engaged and willing to put their ideas forward,” confirmed Kwame, while Cadet First Class Jessica, 15, from Northern Area, summed up how it’s “important to be vocal and express ourselves”.

Cadets also took part in other activities, including RMC map-reading, a fundraising masterclass, ‘fireside chats’ with Sea Cadets CEO and Captain Sea Cadets, and careers advice sessions with Royal Navy officers and senior representatives from the maritime sector. 

Cadet Conference 2024
Taking time out at a Buddhist tea ceremony

So, it’s no surprise that cadets appreciated every opportunity to relax and unwind, too – whether at the Buddhist tea ceremony or the traditional conference disco! Well done to everyone who contributed to an empowering weekend of learning and ideas that will help improve Sea Cadets for all.

Disco at the conference
Having fun at the disco

Photos: Nathaniel Rosa

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