I’d spent half my life in the Army, but leaving as a 28-year-old veteran was more daunting than anything else I’d faced. Where I would ultimately be lucky and find meaningful employment that made use of my skills, many others are not.
It’s not for want for trying of course – and it’s true to say the support networks offered by the Ministry of Defence and a plethora of Service charities have improved over time. So why is it that so many of those stepping onto ‘Civvy Street’ struggle to find a new career path?
It’s a question that drove us to undertake new research in collaboration with armed forces charities the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) and the Officer’s Association (OA). The answers revealed a stark disconnect between the rhetoric and reality of veteran employment.
Deloitte’s ‘Veterans Work’ study highlights that despite more than 1,000 businesses signing the Armed Forces Covenant – a promise to treat past and present military personnel and their families fairly – UK business is, in practice, putting Service leaders at a disadvantage.
While 71 per cent of employers say they would consider employing veterans, just 39 per cent say they would employ someone without industry specific experience. And although 87 per cent of employers are aware of organisations and programmes with recruitment services designed to specifically support veterans, just 24 per cent claim to use them.
Because access to high-skilled employment remains patchy and uneven among service leavers, veterans typically fall back on lower-paid, routine jobs. It is an alarming waste of talent that represents a lost opportunity for both veterans and businesses.
Employers are failing to make the most of the ‘soft skills’ veterans possess to plug a growing skills gap. Over a third (36 per cent) of businesses tell us they find it hard to fill roles demanding strategic management skills, 32 per cent struggle to fill positions involving managing and motivating staff, and 30 per cent try in vain to fill jobs requiring team working.
At the same time, those employing veterans unequivocally agree that they excel in the very same soft skills craved for over teachable, technical know-how. This includes particular strengths in communication, planning and time management (95 per cent agree) and team working (100 per cent agree). As a result, more than half (53 per cent) of businesses that do employ veterans promote them quicker than the rest of the workforce.
It is clear that employers must look beyond the requirement for industry-specific experience and make use of the wealth of multifunctional skills that veterans can bring to the table. Business leaders need to understand in no uncertain terms that hiring veterans is not just the right thing to do, it also makes sound business sense.
The framework for veterans to gain employment is in place – but it’s now time to build on the work already done. It is not just about the push from veterans into corporate life; it should be about the pull from organisations which recognise all that veterans have to offer.
By shining a light on the challenges some veterans face to secure relevant employment, we hope we can encourage others to take action , level the playing field and ensure both the spirit and the letter of the Armed Forces Covenant are followed.
There is a huge opportunity to fully employ veterans’ skills and experience. Our research demonstrates that employing veterans is an act of business, not charity. And we have a collective responsibility to get this right.
Chris Recchia is a partner at Deloitte and lead for the firm’s Military Transition and Talent Programme which with the Officers’ Association (OA) and the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), has launched a report entitled ‘Veterans Work: Recognising the potential of ex-service personnel’.