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The British Army. They are revered as our national heroes, the protectors of our realm, the guardians of our civilisation. Yet despite being held in such high regard, we seem to hear regular stories of ex-servicemen living on the streets and struggling to find work. If they are so special, why are they being snubbed for civilian roles upon their return from duty? Is this phenomenon as wide spread as the press would like you to believe? Or are there plenty of opportunities for ‘squaddies’ to regain a foothold in civilian life after being on the front line?
Life After the Army
Figures from the MoD suggest that 96% of those coming out of the military find work within the first 6 months of leaving. Considering about 24,000 people leave the armed forces per year, that implies that 23,040 on average are falling straight into new jobs. However, Hugh Andree of ForceSelect, an ex-military recruiter, states that these figures are misleading as they relate to any ex-serviceman who has applied for a tax code. This could be for a days work, a weeks work or a lifetimes worth of work. He goes on to argue “It is a fact that there is no actual data that analyses how many are employed and more importantly, in what sort of jobs."
It’s true that some servicemen find it difficult to adjust to civilian life after spending a substantial period of their working life in a job that provides structure, routine and discipline. It is thought that as many as 1,100 are sleeping on the streets of London alone on any given night and further MoD figures suggest that 3% of prisoners (approximately 2,500) are ex-military. Although most of these figures are from the 2014 Review by Lord Ashcroft, his recent review in 2017 indicates the figures are generally still the same.
The MoD does provide the Career Transition Partnership for people leaving the army. An organisation that helps ex-service people to find a new career or job and help employers to recruit them. This is generally done through one of their resettlement centres located throughout the UK. The process of being referred to the CTP can start as early as 2 years before you actually leave the armed forces and can continue for up to 2 years afterwards. This can also increase for soldiers who have been discharged through injury or illness.
Opportunities Outside of the Army
Opportunities for ex-servicemen are plentiful and cover a broad range of disciplines. One major drawback is that Job Centres and many employers are unprepared for ex-military jobseekers. They don’t necessarily understand or appreciate the skills developed whilst serving your country.
Much of our military is kept behind closed doors and as such, unless you are an army nut or have a friend/family in the armed forces, the chances are you do not know what many of them do or what skills are involved (apart from shooting stuff and blowing things up). This lack of information can make recruiters and employers treat ex-servicemen with the same tact as a fresh school leaver with no experience whatsoever.
Opportunities given inside the army can also lead to opportunities outside the army. Once basic training is completed after 14 weeks, soldiers are given options in terms of specialities and subjects to develop their military careers. Much of this training comes in the form of apprenticeships or study which can lead to official qualifications from NVQ’s to PhDs.
What are a Soldiers Qualities?
Being an ex-serviceman usually means you come with, at the very bare minimum, a basic set of skills and disciplines which can be extremely beneficial to a company. These transferable skills include:
A Strong work ethic
Delegation, motivation and communication
Attention to detail
Dealing with pressure
Ability to meet objectives/targets set by a client or superior.
These skills alone show that ex-servicemen can take on roles such as team leaders, management, programme director, department heads and chief executives. All these positions require project management capabilities which are in abundance with ex-military personnel.
Some people may decide to further their education after leaving the army. This could be to brush up or further a skillset they already have, some may just want to change career altogether. There are numerous higher education establishments that recognise military service and its associated accreditation's. A list of them can be found here.
If your struggling with adapting to civilian life after military service there are many associations and groups that can help:
Veterans Gateway – www.veteransgateway.org.uk
The Royal British Legion – www.britishlegion.org.uk
VETS – www.veteranemployment.co.uk
RFEA The Forces Employment Charity – www.rfea.org.uk
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