Yorkshire firms can help our military veterans start a second career: Matthew O’Brien

What is the first image that comes to mind when you think of the word veteran? Most people will reply with an elderly person wearing a uniform and medals but this mindset needs changing.

With the average Army career lasting 24yrs, the age at which someone becomes a veteran is around 42 if they joined at 18 years old.

With more than 16,000 leaving the Army each year, most of us will have spent the majority of our lives there, with the order and security this brings, so transition back into civilian life is no easy feat.

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Suicide rates are high, and every four to six weeks we hear about someone else taking their own life. But the Armed Forces Covenant is hoping to change this situation and working with businesses they hope to provide a platform to encourage companies to take people from the army under their wing and utilise the extensive range of skills we have.

British military personnel taking part in the largest international aid airdrop. PIC: Cpl Tim Laurence RAF/PA WireBritish military personnel taking part in the largest international aid airdrop. PIC: Cpl Tim Laurence RAF/PA Wire
British military personnel taking part in the largest international aid airdrop. PIC: Cpl Tim Laurence RAF/PA Wire

The Army provides a lot of support in the two years before leaving through career transition workshops, helping with defining skill sets, CV writing and looking for jobs. You then have a careers advisor for another year after leaving to continue that support.

It is such an unsettling time though, and my own partner referred to me as a closed book, as I couldn’t handle the change and as men we rarely open up. I hope by writing this I can encourage others to do the same and ask for help.

The Ministry of Defence also knew change was needed however, and the introduction of the Armed Forces Covenant in 2011 is hopefully going to make that difference. Whilst it covers support from healthcare to housing and financial services, the biggest benefit to me by far has been the employment support.

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Throughout your career in the Army, all the above are covered for you, and upon leaving the same support network simply isn’t there. I was initially surprised in the first job I had at people not turning up for meetings and the lack of urgency.

I had to change my own mindset and keep to my own standards. The amount of change to adjust to was huge, and then being made redundant was yet another blow as job security in the Army was always there. Joining Yorkshire Futures as a training manager has been a turning point for me, both for their support for my background and as my colleague Simon Starling also came from the Army.

We have so many transferable skills including leadership, organisation, adaptability, resilience and management. Flexibility is also key, as we moved countries from one operation to another, and our focus was always on promotion and moving up ranks.

Getting companies to acknowledge this and sign up to the Covenant is therefore now a priority for me.

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Yorkshire Futures has signed up to the Covenant and is now a Bronze member of the Employer Recognition Scheme. They have been so supportive and also want to help promote the Covenant locally. There are seven pledges that companies can choose to commit to including Employment support to the Armed Forces Community.

This can be achieved by guaranteeing an interview; offering work placements; additional time off for members of the Reserve Forces and Cadet Associations; health; housing; education and civic responsibility.

Basically, giving people coming out of the Armed Forces a starting chance.

Bronze membership involves signing up and confirming to honour the pledges for at least one year. Silver then involves additional support such as five additional days paid and unpaid annual leave for a year, with gold becoming registered with the Careers Transition Partnership scheme who then promote you as an employer.

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We want to actively promote this scheme and see if we can get other companies in the area signing up to it. In my role as an Armed Forces Champion, it is my own personal mission to support others leaving the service, and ensuring they are fully aware of as many career opportunities as possible.

Having dedicated the biggest part of our careers to protecting the country, it is important to show that has been appreciated, and to support us in our career changes.

Being fully part of the charter shows to any potential veteran that there are organisations out there who fully understand and support this transition and are actively going out of their way to help. It has made a significant difference to both myself and Simon, and we are so grateful to Yorkshire Futures for their support.

As part of the Yorkshire Care Group, they are also extending the Covenant across their other companies including Happy Futures Support Specialists, therefore providing a whole range of careers for people to consider.

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On June 24, to coincide with Armed Forces week, we are also hosting an event to showcase the Armed Forces Covenant to others and hope other companies will come along on the day to hear more about it. The event is taking place at 14 Manor Court, Scarborough from 4pm. To book a

place, please email [email protected]

Matthew O’Brien​​​​ is Training Manager for Yorkshire Futures

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