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Royal Canadian Navy moves into second year of Naval Experience Program

Last spring, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) embarked on a new initiative, the Naval Experience Program (NEP), aimed at reimagining how we attract, recruit, and train new sailors, and the first cohort of the program enrolled in June. The program has now reached the end of its first year. As the RCN moves into the second year of NEP, RCN leadership is hopeful that the program will continue to attract enthusiastic new recruits to the Navy.

The initial response to NEP from aspiring recruits has been positive. To date, the enrollment target of 144 participants was surpassed, with 179 successful enrollees, demonstrating a promising start for NEP. Furthermore, there are currently more than 500 applicants remaining in the recruiting process.

NEP has three main objectives: Attract and enroll, provide training and occupation exposure, and retain as many participants as possible into full-time naval service. Over the past year, NEP sailors have delved into life in the navy, experiencing both the challenges and rewards of a naval career. Now, they stand at the threshold of their decision, contemplating whether to embark on a long-term naval career with the RCN.  

Preliminary data indicates that 74% of the inaugural cohort of NEP participants have opted to stay in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) after their one-year engagement. A more comprehensive analysis of retention data will be available in the fall of 2024, following the completion of a larger cohort’s one-year engagement. Encouraged by these findings, the RCN will continue enrolling sailors in the program to address personnel shortages within regular force navy non-commissioned member occupations.

“The hard work and dedication of the Royal Canadian Navy personnel who designed, implemented, and continue to lead the Naval Experience Programme has been reflected in the positive feedback of NEP sailors, the surpassing of our initial recruitment goal, and the valuable life experiences the programme has offered these NEP sailors who, just a short year ago, were civilians looking for a new adventure. We hope the honest feedback of NEP sailors who have decided to join our fleets, other elements of the Canadian Armed Forces, or even leave the Navy and return to their civilian lives will inspire other Canadians to give the programme a try.”

Rear-Admiral Christopher Robinson, RCN Assistant Chief of Naval Staff, Personnel and Training


  • Out of the 179 initial enrolees, 23 sailors have now completed the program. Of these, 3 have completed an occupation transfer to the Regular Force, while another 14 transfers are currently being processed. These transfers are broken down as follows: Royal Canadian Navy 8, Canadian Army 4, Royal Canadian Air Force 2, and other Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) organizations 3. Finally, 2 participants have transferred to the Naval Reserve, and 4 have released from the CAF.
  • The most common naval occupations requested by NEP sailors are Weapons Engineering Technician, Naval Electronic Sensor Operator, Naval Combat Information Operator and Sound Navigation and Ranging (SONAR) Operator. Next in popularity are the Marine Technician and Boatswain occupations.
  • NEP is meant to provide participants with hands on experience and training opportunities. Examples of program activities during the first year that helped participants decide whether a career in the navy was right for them included: deploying on HMC Ships while on international operations and exercises, supporting naval occupational training onboard RCN vessels and participating in RCN ceremonial events.
  • Implementing such a unique program is not without challenges. During the rollout of the program, concerns were raised about incorporating NEP sailors into existing training programs, knowing there are current sailors awaiting career training and qualifications. Training for current members has not been delayed by NEP. Ultimately, the goal of NEP is to bolster our naval force, a shared priority for all members of the RCN.
  • Transitioning into year two of NEP, the RCN is taking lessons learned from year-one into account and adjusting the program. Some elements the RCN will action include the continuous enrollment of applicants into the program; streamlining the occupational selection process to potentially include trades belonging to other operational environments; and further exploration of naval experiences which will offer the most value to both NEP sailors and non-NEP sailors awaiting training.
  • Canadians and permanent residents who are interested in learning more about NEP can reach out to their nearest Naval Reserve Division, or Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre to find out more, or start an application online at Naval Experience Program –

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