Around 5,000 men who applied for 3,000 professional army positions in the National Guard were on Wednesday undergoing medical tests, the first stage of the hiring process.
Following the tests, and provided they are deemed fit, the candidates will be ranked according to the grade on their high-school leaving certificate.
“University and postgraduate degrees will be taken into account in the second stage when posting those hired to the branches or services,” Defence Minister Christophoros Fokaides said.
Those wishing to join the special forces and the military police, will also undergo athletic tests, the minister said.
University degrees will be necessary if a candidate wanted to join the newly formed cyber defence unit or the engineer corps, or specialised positions in the navy and air force. The degrees will be assessed with the help of academics.
“As a rule, and it will be confirmed, those with university degrees will be included in the first 3,000 who will get the position,” Fokaides said.
The degrees can also be used as an extra qualification later if a candidate decided to have an army career. This will mainly apply for certain areas where the National Guard needed specialists like communications and IT.
The government is recruiting 3,000 professional soldiers to plug the gap that will be created by its decision to cut military service from 24 to 14 months starting from this year’s intake.
The plan is based on a new force structure, redeployment and modernisation, and armament programmes for all three branches.
The professional soldiers will be given three-year contracts after a one-year trial. Recruitment is expected by the end of October.
“The sure thing is that we are a step ahead compared with yesterday as regards combat effectiveness,” the minister said.
The soldiers will receive a €1,127 monthly salary, some €1,000 net. But according to the minister, their employment in the National Guard comes with a series of other benefits.
They include reduced fees for private universities and other schools, free transport, health insurance, scholarships and vocational training.
“I think it is a benefits package that affords young men the capability to start their life,” Fokaides said.
“Based on international experience, the fact that a person joins a professional army does not necessarily mean they have the intention to follow an army career,” he added. “They may do it for a period of their life when conditions make it necessary or to gain some qualifications.”
Fokaides said there was also the vocational training scheme, which will train people to fill positions – like welders and technicians — the army was in need of.
The soldier will undergo training and receive a certificate, which they could later use to enter the jobs market.
“For example, there is a need to fill positions in the navy. They could then seek jobs in merchant shipping in the future,” the minister said.