MANY SKILLED ex-military personnel struggle to adjust to civvy street but they have many valuable skills to offer employers. Amy Fetzer finds out how a Kuehne + Nagel scheme aims to bridge the gap between the two worlds.
No job, no home, no teammates and a totally different culture – for ex-military personnel, leaving the forces can be a massive culture shock from which many struggle to recover. The fall out can be serious – and can lead to problems such as unemployment, homelessness, alcoholism and drug addition.
Yet the 20,000 people who leave the Armed Forces each year have a desirable skill set. They are generally considered to have good organisational, team working, leadership and management skills. They are also seen as being good communicators, committed, and as being health, safety and security aware.
Many companies – including Tesco, EY and Network Rail - actively try and recruit ex-military personnel. However, logistics is one area often where the ex-military skill set is seen as particularly transferable. In fact, there even used to be a government-funded scheme through Skills for Logistics which aimed to funnel ex-service personnel into the industry.
However, logistics is one area where the ex-military skill set is often seen as particularly transferable. There was a “disconnect between the expectation and the reality” of civilian work places, with workplace priorities, such as efficiency and working within tight margins, challengingly different from those in the military.
Kuehne + Nagel’s new military recruitment project hopes to buck this trend. The company has recruited an ex-military man, Philip Doyle, specifically to run the project in the hope that this will allow the company to “straddle both worlds”. It is hoped that this will ease the transition into civilian life and allow recruits to “settle into their new jobs so they will stay for the longer term”, because, as someone who has just left, Doyle understands “it takes some time to decompress out of the military.”
The project utilises various mediums including the Career Transition Partnership and corps like the Royal Logistical Corp to “create a stream of potential candidates into the company.” A military mentor system will provide new recruits with support during the difficult period of transition throughout their probationary period.
This is because, for many, leaving the army does not just mean changing their job, but also where they live and their whole lifestyle. From having accommodation and board on tap, with very little household administration to worry about, adjusting to the reality of finding housing, doctors and schools, and managing household bills and benefit systems can be overwhelming.
A Citizen’s Advice Bureau report likened it to “a civilian redundancy occurring alongside being told by your landlord that you have weeks in which to leave your tenancy.” It is, as one ex-serviceman put it, “like [being on] a different planet – Planet of the Apes.”
The company hopes that having support within the company from an ex-services mentor who understands where they have come from, what they have been through, and who talks the same language will be a powerful tool in the transition process. “We hope to put them in touch before they start so that they know a friendly face from day one, which should help to settle people in,” says Doyle. “This appeals to potential recruits and is seen as something that really adds value, giving us a good recruitment tool.”
They also plan to provide contact information for local housing, schools and council services. The idea is to “stop civilian life from feeling alien and to normalise work outside of the military for people.”
“We hope that as the project grows and the camaraderie builds, the more it will sustain itself. Recruits will find others with the same sense of humour, and will be able to find the same type of relationships as those that they had in the forces. We hope we can create a similar sense of community, but in a civilian working environment, which can be just as fulfilling.”