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"What do boot camps really achieve?": a means-end analysis of the Limited Service Volunteers programme

Robert Maxwell1
PhD candidate
Massey University


This article identifies participants' perceptions of the outcomes from Limited Service Volunteers at Burnham Military Camp, a programme that provides motivational intervention for the unemployed. Means-end theory has been used to examine the relationships between the activities (the "means") and the resulting values (the "ends"). This article describes the most important outcomes, as perceived by participants during the Limited Service Volunteers programme. Means-end interviews were conducted with 85 participants of the October 2006 intake. Analysis of the data is represented in ladder maps, illustrating the links between individual activities and the associated outcomes. Demographic variables of age, gender and ethnicity highlight the variances of outcomes between these subgroups. A second set of means-end interviews was conducted with 28 participants by phone six months after the course, highlighting the outcomes that had a lasting impression on the participants. The results demonstrate the positive and lasting outcomes of the Limited Service Volunteers programme, and thus can be used to show the effects and enhance the design and delivery of the programme.


At the time of this study there were 30,925 people in New Zealand who were unable to secure employment, forcing them to be dependent on taxpayer-funded benefits (Ministry of Social Development 2007). Unemployment has the effect of lowering an individual's sense of self-efficacy and motivation, with downstream consequences including higher incidences of crime, family violence and social disconnection (Feather 1992, Ministry of Social Development 1994). Therefore, programmes that intervene in this decline in the unemployed person's motivation and self-efficacy are an important step in enabling them to re-engage with the workforce.

Unfortunately, until now motivational interventions conducted in the outdoor environment have not produced significant results (de Boer 2003, Swindells 1998), and therefore I have chosen to explore motivational interventions in an attempt to understand what practical steps can be undertaken to improve the effectiveness of such programmes.

The Limited Service Volunteers (LSV) programme aims to develop participants' motivation, confidence and skills in order to increase the number of young New Zealanders entering employment or further training. It was the original motivational intervention programme, beginning operation in 1993, providing a service to the Ministry of Social Development's unemployed clients. The programme is run by the New Zealand Defence Force, and involves a combination of outdoor adventure activities, physical training and various employment-related lessons, conducted within a military environment.

An evaluation of 85 LSV participants was conducted in October 2006 in order to uncover what outcomes participants perceive they gain from participation on the course and what course components are important factors to achieving these outcomes. Participant interviews were conducted at the end of the course, and again by phone interviews with 28 participants at six months post-course. Means-end theory was used to demonstrate the links between course activities (attributes) and the effects on the participants' values (outcomes). The results are visually presented through the use of hierarchical value maps.

This article first outlines motivational interventions in the New Zealand context. The means-end theory used to undertake this research is presented, followed by an explanation of the data collection procedures. The data are then presented, with a breakdown of the participants' demographics, followed by analysis of the data and presentation of the outcomes through graphical representation. The article concludes with a discussion of the significant findings and the implications from this research.

Motivational intervention

Motivational intervention programmes were developed by the Ministry of Social Development in response to the fact that the motivation of long-term unemployed to look for work decreases as the term of unemployment increases, as does their level of self-esteem and -confidence (Swindells 1998, Winefield 1995). There was also recognition that there is a need to rebuild the skills, morale and motivation of the long-term unemployed (Regier et al. 1984). Motivational intervention programmes aim to increase the confidence and skills of job seekers so as to improve their chances of finding work (Anderson 1998).

All job seekers registered with Work and Income are eligible to attend motivational intervention training, although there is a focus on the long-term unemployed (those out of work for 26 weeks or more), and job seekers that are at risk of becoming long-term unemployed (Ministry of Social Development 2001). The study presented here was conducted at LSV, and is part of a larger study of motivational intervention programmes conducted by the author as part of his PhD study.

This study was undertaken to increase our knowledge of what the students perceive they are gaining from participation in motivational intervention programmes. While there is much research on experiential education and adventure-based learning (Hattie et al., 1997, Luckner and Nadler 1997, Neill 1999), there has been limited research in the area of experiential education within the context of motivational intervention programmes for the unemployed. The research that is available provides a tenuous link between the two major providers of motivational intervention (LSV and Outward Bound) and its immediate outcomes, in terms of motivation and self-esteem (Swindells 1998) and employment outcomes (Johri et al. 2004). Hence, there is a need to address the gap in the research and to outline the processes of motivational intervention programmes for the unemployed.

Means-end theory was the method adopted to undertake this study, with the intention of connecting course components to outcomes; i.e. what specifically increases or decreases motivation, self-confidence, goal-setting, etc. Studying the outcomes from the components of the courses links the attribute to the consequence to the value. For example: rock climbing (attribute), leading to determination and perseverance (consequence), leading to an increase in self-confidence (value).

Study setting

The participants for this research study attended the October 2006 intake of Limited Service Volunteers (LSV), course number 02/07, at Burnham army camp, 40 km south of Christchurch, New Zealand. Participants are referred, and operational funding is provided by the Ministry of Social Development, with facilities and staffing by the New Zealand Defence Force, utilising the New Zealand Army protocol. LSV is the original provider of residential motivational training in New Zealand, with personnel drawn from the New Zealand Army, Navy and Air Force.

All participants entering the programme were unemployed and identified by their Work and Income case manager as in need of increasing their motivation in order to enhance their chances of entering employment or further training. Participants, who choose to attend LSV, do so strictly voluntarily.

At the base the participants underwent a rigorous six-week military/outdoor adventure-training programme. LSV participants are subject to military law, but no martial or combat training is provided. The participants reside on the base for the duration of the course. The LSV company is split into platoons one, two and three, with approximately equal numbers and a mix of male and female participants. Each platoon is further divided, when the need arises, into four sections, consisting of 8 to ten participants. Lessons are primarily conducted at the platoon level, but occasionally at the company or section level.

Following is a basic outline of the programme.

Weeks 1-2: Imposed discipline (dependence)
Military law and rights, barracks routine, drill, physical training, goal-setting, drug and alcohol awareness, first aid training, rock climbing, health awareness.

Weeks 3-4: Development of self and team (interdependence)
Introduction to the outdoor environment, rafting, team challenge activities, high ropes activity, New Zealand police presentation, Ministry of Social Development presentation (drill and physical training continue).

Weeks 5-6: Self-discipline and team membership (independence)
50 km hike, job searching techniques, grooming, graduation parade (drill and physical training continue).

Course components are delivered by LSV company staff, non-company staff and external providers. Non-company military staff provide lessons in specific areas such as health, cooking and physical training; external providers deliver lessons in goal-setting, first aid, family planning, budgeting, rock climbing and ropes courses. Upon completion of the course, those who have successfully completed the first aid course receive a comprehensive first aid certificate from Red Cross.

Company staff deliver lessons in their particular area of expertise, while platoon corporals accompany the platoon to each lesson, ensuring discipline and timing are adhered to. Each platoon is supervised 24 hours a day by one of four corporals assigned to that platoon. Platoon corporals instruct drill, which is practised throughout the course, developing participants' skill and precision, culminating in the march-out parade on the final day.

Means-end theory

Means-end theory is focused on how the benefits and outcomes are related to participants' individual values (Goldenberg et al. 2005). This goes beyond the outcome research undertaken on outdoor education programmes, showing what benefit participants gain from participation on courses. Using means-end theory we can not only learn what benefits and outcomes individuals receive from participating on motivational intervention programmes, but also discover what personal values individuals perceive as being important with respect to the course components (Goldenberg et al. 2005). This information can then be used to enhance programme design and facilitate a greater understanding of the internal processes in the course. Means-end theory looks at the outcomes of course components, linking the attribute to the consequence to the value.

What is an attribute?

In this context, attributes are the course activities or aspects of the course the participants credit as being the cause of their change during a course. Examples of attributes on motivational intervention programmes are: rock climbing, hiking, physical training and interactions, or course aspects such as time management and teamwork.

What is a consequence?

Consequences are the effects and outcomes that occur to the individual from the course activities (attributes). Consequences can occur directly from the course activity, or indirectly, and can be either positive or negative (Klenosky et al. 1993). Consequences may also be physiological (satisfying hunger, thirst or other physiological needs), psychological (self-esteem, improved outlook on the future) or sociological (enhanced status, group membership) (Gutman 1982). Examples of consequences from motivational intervention programmes include relationships with others, teamwork, leadership, goal-setting and achievement.

What is a value?

"A value is what a participant wants in life or sees as a better way of living or existence over another" (McAvoy 2001:1).Values vary from one individual to another and are viewed as being highly abstract (Goldenberg et al. 2005). Examples of values that participants on motivational intervention programmes may have are: self-confidence, self-reliance and achievement of a personal goal.

Means-end theory data were collected by the author through interviews with participants at course end, utilising a qualitative methodology called "laddering" (Reynolds and Gutman 1988). Laddering involves first asking the participant what outcomes (consequence) they think they gained from participating on the course, then asking the participant what activity (attribute) led to that consequence. Open-ended questions are then asked about why they think the outcome was important to them; this process is repeated in a step-wise fashion, asking the "Why was that important?" question until the participant is unable to come up with an answer. Each successive answer to the "Why was that important?" question should be a step away from the concrete activity towards the more abstract value level (Klenosky et al. 1993).

This method of questioning, starting at the participation in activities or attributes and leading to consequences and their associated personal values, is a type of knowledge structure called a means-end chain (Gutman 1982, Klenosky et al. 1993) (Figure 1).

Figure 1 The Means-end Chain

Figure 1  The Means-end Chain

Data collection procedures

Before commencing data collection the ethics of the study needed to be considered due to the fact that participants may have felt compelled to take part in the study. This was addressed by making the students aware that there were no consequences of not taking part in the research. This information, along with an assurance that the results would be anonymous and would have no effect on their Work and Income benefit, was communicated to them verbally prior to their decision to participate in the study. Participants were also made aware that they could withdraw from the study at any time. The study meets the requirements outlined in the Massey University Ethics Guidelines (2003).

Participant interviews were conducted verbally, because the long-term unemployed population group is acknowledged as generally having a low literacy level (OECD and Human Resources Development Canada 2000, Statistics New Zealand 1995). Interviews were conducted away from the other group members to encourage the participant to give unbiased answers. Responses were initially written on a means-end interview form, then entered into a computer program that allowed interview content to be coded as soon as possible after the interviews, thus enabling accurate coding of the data. At the start of the interview each participant was asked their permission to be included in the research. Interviews were conducted during the last four days of the course, at times convenient to the participants.

The interview included questions on:

  • participant variables: age, gender, ethnicity, and which region they were from
  • what outcomes they observed from the course (consequence)
  • why each answer was important to them, until clarification of the resulting value was achieved or until the participant could not verbalise an answer (value)
  • the activities or parts of the course that led to that outcome (activity).

Upon conclusion of the course, participants were asked if they would like to participate in a follow-up phone interview six months post-course. Sixty participants were interested and their contact phone numbers were collected.

Six months after the course finished participants were contacted by phone for the six-month post-course means-end data collection. A total of 28 participants (33% response rate) were successfully contacted and interviewed via telephone for this part of the study. The questioning was the same as for the initial means-end interviews.

Analysis and results

Participant demographics

At the course's end the participant demographics were analysed. Ages ranged from 17 to 25 years, with a mean of 18.9 years. The gender split was males 78.1% and females 21.9 %. The ethnicity of the participants was Māori 55.2%, European 34.3%, Pacific people 7.6%, and Other 2.9%.

Data analysis

Participant interview results were coded by the researcher and then entered into the computer program Laddermap (Gengler and Reynolds 1995), and coded into the following attributes, consequences and values. The data produced a total of 34 content codes, comprising 13 attributes, 10 consequences and 11 values, as shown in Table 1. Of the attributes that were mentioned, marching was listed most frequently (6.2%), followed by time management (6.0%), physical training (5.9%) and interactions (4.7%). The consequences mentioned most often were achievement (6.8%), followed by relationships with others (4.6%), determination/perseverance (3.4%) and teamwork (3.3%). Of the values mentioned, self-awareness/improvement (7.1%) had the highest frequency, followed by transference in general (5.4%), self-confidence/esteem (5.3%) and transference to work (4.6%).

Means-end relationships

To visually represent the means-end relationships between the attributes, consequences and values, hierarchical value maps (HVMs) were created (see Figure 2), which characterise key meanings within particular domains (Klenosky et al. 1993).

The resulting HVMs show the associations between the attributes, located near the base of the map, which are the starting point of the ladder (represented with all lower-case text). Above are the consequences (Initial Capital Only), and the resulting values are found towards the top of the map (ALL UPPER CASE). The attributes, consequences and values are represented by circles of various sizes, depending on the number of times the particular concept was mentioned, and this is also indicated by the value "n". The HVM includes small circles representing concepts that have not been mentioned often, and larger circles representing concepts that have been mentioned frequently. The thickness of the lines linking concepts is proportional to the frequency of links between concepts, with thick lines representing strong links between two concepts. The placement of the concepts has no particular meaning other than for clarity within the diagram.

Figure 2 summarises the concepts from the 85 participants from the first part of the study. For clarity, a cut-off level of seven was used, and so only associations that were mentioned by at least seven respondents are shown in the resulting HVM. It can be observed that the predominant attributes / course components are time management, marching and physical training, and interactions. Other course components represented on the HVM include teamwork, the course overall, instruction, rock climbing and lessons. The consequences/outcomes that were mentioned most frequently were achievement and relationships with others. Other notable outcomes were teamwork, determination/perseverance, personal growth/challenges, physical fitness, and knowledge/awareness. The values most often mentioned were self-awareness/improvement, transference in general (in the HVM transference in general is labelled Transference, due to space constraints), self-confidence/esteem and transference to work. Additional values include warm relationships with others, fun and enjoyment of life, self-respect and a sense of belonging.

Table 1: Frequency of Content Codes in LSV Respondents' Means-End Chains

Attributes Frequency
Percentage of total
Time management
Physical training
Course overall
Rock climbing
New experiences
Leadership opportunities
Relationships with others
Personal growth/challenges
Physical fitness
Job skills
Transference in general
Transference to work
Warm relationships with others
Fun and enjoyment of life
Sense of accomplishment
Sense of belonging
Achievement of a personal goal/value
Total 1,076 100%

Figure 2: Hierarchical Value Map for Limited Service Volunteers Course Participants: All Respondents (n = 85)

Figure 2:  Hierarchical Value Map for Limited Service Volunteers Course Participants: All Respondents (n = 85)

It is notable that several of the participants linked time management to a sense of achievement and the importance of being able to transfer that sense of achievement back to life in general, and to work. It is also interesting to note that the physical training aspect of marching was an important step in the resulting values of self-awareness/improvement and self-confidence/esteem. Another observation from the HVM was the strong links between interactions, teamwork and the resulting value of warm relationships with others, which shows that as the participants work through the course they form close friendships with each other. The most important values of self-awareness/improvement, self-confidence/esteem and transference in general show that the course helps the participants realise their own abilities, and that they believe they have the confidence to apply this back in their home or future work environment.

It is clear that the most important aspect of the course is the environment and structure of the course rather than the individual activities such as hiking, rafting, rock climbing and field training exercises. This shows the importance of having an enforced structure for the participants, while supporting the social interactions within the group environment.

In addition to the summary HVM shown in Figure 1, separate HVMs were developed to provide a view of the outcomes associated with the separate demographic characteristics of gender, age and ethnicity, and six-month post-course data. HVMs were also produced for the individual course activities of marching, time management, physical training, interactions, teamwork, lessons, instruction, course overall, rock climbing and new experiences. Due to space restraints these HVMs have not been included but are available from the author.


The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of the outcomes the participants perceive as resulting from motivational intervention programmes. Using means-end theory and participant interviews, data collected from a sample of 85 LSV course participants provided an insight into what the participants perceive as being the outcomes associated with this type of motivational intervention programme. Also uncovered are the means-end links that help explain how and why these outcomes are important to the participants.

Analysis of the data for all respondents at course end revealed a number of key outcomes and personal values. One significant outcome is that several of the participants linked time management to a sense of achievement, and the importance of being able to transfer that sense of achievement back to future work and life in general. The physical training aspect of marching is an important step in the resulting values of self-awareness/improvement and self-confidence/esteem. There were also strong links between interactions, teamwork and the resulting value of warm relationships with others. This shows that as the participants work through the course they form close friendships with each other. The most important values of self-awareness/improvement, self-confidence/esteem and transference in general show that the course helps the participants to realise their own abilities, and that they have the confidence to apply this back in their home or future work environment.

Analysis of the demographic variables of gender, age and ethnicity indicates that there are variations between subgroups. In terms of gender, for males the physical training aspect of the course had a simple, direct relationship to an increase in physical fitness and teamwork, whereas the physical side of the course for the females had many outcomes for them. The increase in physical fitness was a more important consequence for the males than for the females, and the females placed a higher emphasis on teamwork than the males. The other main difference between genders was that the physical aspect of marching was not as important for the females as for the males. The resulting values for both genders are largely similar.

In terms of age, the results show that social interaction is more important for the younger participants and teamwork is more important for the older participants. Transference to work is a more valued outcome for the older participants than the younger ones, and physical training has more of an impact for the older participants.

Differences between ethnic groups indicate that Māori participants place higher value on warm relationships with others than the European participants. Another difference is that while the two subgroups placed similar value on transference to work, the European participants showed more links to transference to work than the Māori participants.

The marching activity has a strong link to a sense of achievement, and to the values of self-awareness/improvement, self-confidence/esteem and transference in general. This shows that marching is an important aspect of the course for the participants: it is a new activity for them and requires skill to become proficient. Participants felt a large sense of achievement from being able to perform marching by the end of the course, as marching is a skill that was initially difficult for many of them. This in turn led to participants becoming aware that they were able to do much more than they initially thought they could do, and they also felt good about themselves, increasing their self-esteem and confidence. The skills developed from marching were thought to be valuable and transferable back to their home and future work environments.

Time management was a significant aspect of the course, revealing that participants felt a sense of achievement by course end in terms of being able to manage their time well, which led to the value of self-awareness and improvement. Time management was also believed to be able to be transferred back to their home and future work environment. For many participants, keeping to a typical work timeline of getting up early in the morning, having regular meal times, and going to bed at a time that enabled them to have eight hours' sleep was vastly different from their pre-course home routine.

The results for physical training are as would be expected: by increasing their physical fitness, participants' levels of self-confidence and esteem also increased. Again, this aspect of the course was different to many of the participants' home environments, where many live a sedentary life, which can have a detrimental effect on their physical and mental health.

The social interactions on the course were another important aspect for the participants. Being introduced to a new group of people in a drug- and alcohol-free environment, and being given challenges that require teamwork while being supported by the staff at LSV, led them to develop positive and supportive relationships, and to foster a sense of belonging within the group.

The results at six months post-course differ from the results at course end in that at post-course the respondents were less likely to identify individual activities that had an effect on them. The course as a whole was the significant attribute, combining the major course elements such as the course structure, the outdoor adventure and military aspects of the course, and including a few individual activities such as marching and hiking. The two individual attributes that were able to be identified as being significant at six months post-course were physical training and interactions. This reiterates the importance of these aspects of the course in producing positive outcomes for the participants.

The results at six months confirm that the values at course end do have a lasting effect on increasing participants' self-esteem and self-confidence, and that there had been a transference of skills and knowledge from the course, which had a positive affect on both their home environment and in the workforce. The increased number of links connecting to transference to work at six months post-course, indicates that participants perceived that the course still had a positive effect on their employment prospects at that time.

It is clear that the most important aspect of the course was the environment or structure of the course, rather than the individual activities such as hiking, rafting, rock climbing and field-training exercises. This shows the importance of having a well-defined structure for the participants, along with supporting positive social interactions within the group environment.

Although some of the individual course components do not have a great effect on the perceived outcomes of the course, they are still an important aspect for marketing the course. Activities such as rock climbing and rafting, while not having a great effect on the outcomes, attract potential participants to attend the course. These high-impact activities also assist with persistence on the course because they are enjoyable.

Overall, this study highlights the importance of the course structure and setting to increase participants' self-efficacy. The course structure revolves around a typical work-day schedule, with regular meals, physical activity and engaging in social interactions. This structure, as well as the military setting, places the participant in an unfamiliar environment, which is also important to achieving course outcomes (Gass 1993, Walsh and Golins 1976).

It is acknowledged that the group studied is not representative of the wider population of long-term unemployed. Participants volunteered to attend the course, and went through a selection process that meant that the selected participants were those candidates most likely to succeed on the course.

Implications and conclusion

Analysis of the demographic variables of gender, age and ethnicity indicate that there are variations between subgroups, and these variations should be acknowledged for each individual course intake. This, in addition to the increased knowledge of outcomes associated with specific course activities, can be used at the course design stage. For example, if an intake has a large number of younger participants, then social interactions should have a higher priority than the physical training aspect of the course. Alternatively, the physical training could be focused more on team sports rather than individual physical training (like running,) thus promoting interactions between participants while still increasing their physical fitness.

The present findings have a number of important implications for policies directed at reducing the occurrence of long-term unemployment. First, providers of motivational intervention should balance providing high-impact activities (which have little effect on outcomes, but have a role to play in recruitment and course persistence) and programme structure, which is significant in facilitating participants' post-course employment prospects.

Second, these results should be discussed within the Ministry of Social Development to see where motivational interventions can best fit within the case management framework to ensure optimal outcomes. This could be achieved by, for example, timing motivational interventions immediately prior to commencing employment, to facilitate the transition from the unstructured daily routine of unemployment to the structured work-day arrangement. Previous research highlighting the importance of effective goal-setting on motivational intervention courses (Maxwell 2008) should also be taken into account. Service delivery of case management that includes the support of various agencies should consider the goals that clients can develop during motivational interventions to empower them beyond the programme, by actively involving them in the goal-setting process.

Finally, policies relating to motivational interventions should be shaped to maximise outcomes for participants by supporting providers to deliver more effective programmes. This can be achieved by providing access to research, such as that presented in this article and the work done on how to reduce early departures from courses (Maxwell et al. 2008), and by providing expert support to progress the design and delivery of motivational interventions in New Zealand.

Further research could be undertaken to understand the links between the outcomes of this research and employment outcomes for the participants. A longitudinal study for perhaps two years post-course could establish how persistent the effects of this programme are. Motivational interventions in New Zealand currently lack inter-industry knowledge sharing. It is hoped that this article takes a step towards dispersing knowledge to other providers of motivational intervention in order to benefit both providers and the unemployed participants of such courses.

The stated aims of the programme are to increase participants' motivation, confidence and skills to enter employment or study. The results presented here indicate that participants' confidence is increased, and that they believe that the course outcomes can be transferred to future work situations. Previous research on the goal-setting aspect of the LSV programme (Maxwell 2008) indicates that the motivational outcome from LSV is linked to the effective delivery of the goal-setting aspect of the course, and as a result the goal-setting component of LSV has been restructured. In order to achieve significant, lasting increases in post-course outcomes of employment and study uptake, it is the view of the author that the LSV programme needs to be an integral part of a larger sequence of support, focused on the individual's specific situation.

In conclusion, this research revealed that the LSV programme produces many positive immediate outcomes to the participants. Course components such as marching, time management, physical training and interactions produce a heightened sense of achievement, improved relationships with others, improved determination, perseverance and teamwork. This results in positive course outcomes, which include increases in self-esteem, awareness, improvement and confidence. These outcomes have an immediate effect on the participants, are also transferred back into their post-course environment, and are persistent six months after the course ends.


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1 Correspondence
Robert Maxwell, Department of Management, Massey University Wellington, PO Box 756, Wellington, 6140; ph: 021 911662; email:

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Social Policy Journal of New Zealand: Issue 37

"What do boot camps really achieve?": a means-end analysis of the Limited Service Volunteers programme

Jun 2011

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