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Life after leaving the UK's Armed Forces

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Leaving the Armed Forces can be a daunting prospect. After years of living a structured lifestyle which could involve fighting on the front line, entering what might seem like the comparatively quieter civilian world can take its toll if the transition isn't properly handled. Report by Leigh Hamilton.

Around 20,000 personnel leave the Services every year. This can be due to a natural end to their commission, redundancy, or medical discharge. Each of these individuals has access to tailored support and advice years before they are discharged, to ensure they are as well prepared as possible.

The Career Transition Partnership (CTP), which is a partnering agreement between the Ministry of Defence and Right Management, provides resettlement services for those leaving the Royal Navy, Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Marines and also acts as an intermediary for employers wishing to hire Service leavers.

To date the CTP has helped over 170,000 personnel with the tricky transition to civilian life by offering guidance, workshops and courses.

Leaving the Armed Forces can, in some respects, be like starting again from scratch. The CTP understands how complicated creating a new life can be, and provides advice on all aspects of civilian life including; approaching the job market; how to claim benefits; housing; health and education; pensions and interviewing skills.

Advice, guidance and support are available from the CTP two years before discharge until two years after leaving Service, if the individual is eligible in accordance with current policy.

After receiving word that they are leaving the forces, a Service leaver is given a briefing which clearly outlines what they can expect in the coming months and they will be given in-Service resettlement advice before attending a three-day Career Transition Workshop (CTW).

CTP’s Marketing Communications Manager Karen Carroll said:

Obviously it’s a scary time for a lot of people and we’re aware of that. The first thing Service personnel need to do is get registered with the CTP through their Service Resettlement Advisor and get the process started.

Then, they can go on the three day transition workshop. They’ll start to work with a career consultant.

“They will develop and follow a Personal Resettlement Plan which will include resettlement activities to meet the needs of the individual and aspirations for their future career. > > This includes further CV and interview techniques workshops, vocational training and equipping them with the tools and knowledge to market themselves to future employers.

Service personnel possess a wide range of skills which make them very valuable assets to civilian employers. Their military background provides skills and a work ethos that would be an asset to any organisation.

These skills include leadership, being able to work as part of a team, discipline, maturity and acceptance of responsibility. Employers often cite ex-Service employees as being flexible, and having a positive attitude. Mrs Carroll said:

Some Service leavers worry that their military skills and experience will not transfer into civilian roles. Attendance at a CTW and working with a Career Consultant will help to translate those skills and many are surprised at what they do have to offer such as leadership, teamwork, planning and motivating.

These soft skills are important to employers and we work with many who are willing to train Service leavers because they value the skills they possess and they can see that they will be an asset to the company.

Lieutenant Commander David Sargent is one of the many Service personnel who have benefited from the CTP. He was notified in September 2011 that he was being made redundant as part of Tranche 1 of the Armed Forces Redundancy Programme following the Strategic Defence and Security Review.

After serving for almost thirteen years as a Logistics Officer with the Royal Navy, Lt Cdr Sargent relied heavily on the guidance provided by the CTP during the year before he left the Armed Forces.

After initial contact with the CTP, Lt Cdr Sargent attended a CTW at the Regional Resettlement Centre (RRC) Cottesmore which set the tone for the rest of his transition experience:

When I attended I was still in shock after being made compulsorily redundant,” Lt Cdr Sargent said. “So, initially I had thought very little about resettlement. The CTW was a real wakeup call and made me think very long and hard about what I needed to do. It got me into the job seeking mindset.

During his military career, Lt Cdr Sargent gained extensive experience in logistics and supply chain management and also headed up a number of different departments.

After beginning an MSc in Logistics Management through the Navy, Lt Cdr Sargent discussed his options with his Career Consultant, and he soon came to the conclusion that continuing with this qualification would not make the best use of his Graduated Resettlement Time (GRT).

Planning to utilise his existing military skill-set, Lt Cdr Sargent set his sights on finding work in the field of Logistics. He said:

I found myself referring time and again to CTW and the notes I was provided with. Certainly as my job search continued, I found the lessons learned were more and more relevant.

Although focussing on logistics vacancies, by chance, he came across an advert on the Lincolnshire County Council website for the position of School Business Manager at a local school:

I saw the job specification and realised that it was almost identical to that of a Naval Logistics Officer. A little more research showed me that the traditional Naval term for my branch, Purser, shares the same Latin root as Bursar. The case seemed to make itself!

So, on the face of it, it was a step change, but it actually saw me playing to my strengths and also looking at education, which is what I really wanted all along.

Lt Cdr Sargent still uses his military experience on a daily basis, and says:

Be it management of people, things, money, infrastructure, the experience gained has proved utterly invaluable.

When he moved in the civilian world of work, Lt Cdr Sargent explained that he found that his priorities changed:

I made the decision that a good job wasn’t solely about the money. Locality, time off, environment, etc, were all equally important.

Lt Cdr Sargent’s new boss, Head Teacher at Cherry Willingham Community School, David Rice, said:

In less than two months, Dave Sargent has made a palpable impact our school. Dave’s learning curve has been very steep with some rather sharp edges and he is managing the job superbly well.

Changes in family circumstances can be a catalyst for some personnel to seek voluntary redundancy.

After 14 years in the RAF as a Puma navigator, Sarah Murnane decided to apply for voluntary redundancy to make sure that she was able to spend more time with her young child:

I have a three-year-old daughter,” she said. “The RAF was great when I was young, free and single and didn’t mind travelling. I did Kosovo, Bosnia, Basra, Baghdad and Afghanistan. Having little kids and going away just doesn’t suit me anymore, so I applied for voluntary redundancy which was a good way out for me.

After discovering that her application for redundancy had been approved, Mrs Murnane attended a CTW a few weeks later at RRC Northolt. She said:

I found it really useful, especially the guidance on CV writing as most of us who go straight into the military have never had to write a CV. I thought I should focus on defence management jobs, but my career consultant encouraged me to think of other areas.

Before I joined the Air Force I wanted to teach, so she encouraged me to look into that area as well as project management. The meeting with her was so useful, she knew so much.

During the CTW, Mrs Murnane was encouraged to look for jobs online and it was during the workshop that she applied for a position as a geography teacher - which she got. Mrs Murnane said:

There were four people interviewed and the other three guys were all qualified teachers. I’m not a qualified teacher, and the others were also a bit younger than me and I just thought they’re not going to want an unqualified and older person.

I left thinking nothing about it and got a call the next morning offering me the job.

Although she was elated to find out she had successfully made the transition into a civilian job, Mrs Murnane was put to the test as she had to move house and look after a three-year-old child on her own as her husband, who is also in the RAF, was on deployment in Afghanistan.

After the pressure of changing her whole life, Mrs Murnane then had to face a classroom of rowdy children in her new job. Luckily the skills she gained during her time in the RAF ensured she was well equipped for whatever they had in store:

When kids are messing about, it’s important to be able to control them. When I got hit in Baghdad, that was quite scary and it got the adrenaline pumping. Kids playing up in the classroom is comparatively not scary at all.

To those who may be facing redundancy, Mrs Murnane advised:

Don’t give up job hunting and don’t get too demoralised. You may not find a job immediately. You’ve got to find a job that suits you and don’t underestimate the skills that the military has given you; confidence; being able to deal with lots of different situations; and not getting phased by things.

With the help, guidance and support of the MOD through the CTP, life after active service has the potential to open new doors and present new opportunities that personnel may not have expected.

See Related Links for information about the CTP .