Very real problems persist around veterans’ efforts to transition into new walks of life when they leave the forces.

Newspaper stories continue to emerge about highly experienced veterans who are unable even to land interviews, despite applying for hundreds of jobs.

In November last year, a special campaign sprang up to highlight these painful issues.

Launched by Deloitte, the Officers’ Association and Forces in Mind Trust, Veterans Work rolled out a series of short films to explain the benefits that service leavers can bring to other types of organisations.

With that in mind, the campaign challenges employers to “look beyond rigid hiring criteria”.

A Veterans Work report revealed that, across the UK, three in 10 businesses haven’t even considered hiring veterans. Meanwhile, six in 10 say they would never recruit someone who doesn’t have industry-specific experience.

But amid all these shortcomings, there are actually quite a lot of stakeholders in the recruitment industry who recognise what a real talent pool veterans present.

Tactical language

Durham County Council has just approved a scheme in which veterans who apply for jobs there will be automatically interviewed if they meet the minimum criteria for the roles.

Amazon Web Services has recently launched the re:Start initiative, which provides technical and soft-skills training to ex-services personnel who are keen to pursue technology careers.

And Barclays is a founding member of the Veteran Employment Transition Service (VETS), which connects veterans with business mentors.

So some organisations are ahead of the rest here, demonstrating a real understanding and appreciation of what is meant by transferable skills.

Indeed, what we at the Institute have discovered in our own research on this topic is that the problem is very often more to do with translation: how can veterans convey the range of skills that they are bringing with them into civilian life?

For example, in an interview setting, a typical military response would be to use the ‘We’ form – especially in a competence-based interview, the use of which is quite widespread in industry.

By contrast, a civilian response would come very much from an ‘I’ perspective: ‘I achieved this, I solved that, I was able to demonstrate competence in this specific skill in this specific situation.

So on one level it’s a language problem, rather than one that stems from a lack of ability to work alone.

Manoeuvring skills

On another level, there’s a pervasive stereotype of the forces as a somewhat homogenous entity whose employees respond to just one management style: giving and receiving orders.

However, we found that the military is a world away from that monolithic image. It’s comprised of a diverse range of organisations, roles, cultures and people.

Even when two individuals have served the same duration with the same Service in the same country, they will have their own personalities and training backgrounds.

As such, they will have very different skillsets and capabilities, which they’ll have applied in organisations with contrasting needs and approaches.

So, how we can a) dispel the notion that the services are only about command and control, and b) urge employers to see that veterans can align their skills with leadership and management approaches that are exactly relevant for today’s organisations ?

We found that the armed services take leadership and management development very seriously – and that their investment in their people can continue to be realised once service leavers transition to civilian jobs.

Veterans have the kinds of transferable skills that UK plc is crying out for: i) preparing, training and leading people; ii) protecting the physical and emotional welfare of service members and their families; iii) creating environments that foster learning, development, and retention of employees; iv) fostering ethical decision making; v) maintaining technical and tactical expertise, and vi) a real appreciation of the need for cyber-security

None of these skills should be wasted. Recognising that really shows an understanding, and appreciation, of what we mean when we talk about transferable skills.

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