I was a boy of 16 when I joined and a 28-year-old man when I left. Half of my life had been in the Army and the prospect of leaving was as daunting as anything I’d faced. I was lucky to find a new focus that made use of my skills – and I found it here in London.
The City offers a well-trodden route to employment for veterans. It has long recognised the skills they can bring and spearheaded military recruitment programmes. Many companies have continued to strengthen these to appeal to more service leavers than ever before, as we have done at Deloitte.
But these positive steps belie a deep-rooted issue. Fewer than 4 per cent of service leavers live in London. Outside the capital, far too many of those who step onto “Civvy Street” are still struggling to find a new career path.
This is despite more than 1,000 companies in the UK having signed the Armed Forces Covenant, a promise to all those who serve, or have served, and their families that they will be treated fairly. This is a crucial point: it isn’t about giving preferential treatment or hand-holding, because that’s not what this community of men and women want. It is about being fair.
Yet across the UK, three in 10 employers admit they have not even considered employing veterans. While the majority claim to be more open-minded, 60 per cent rule out recruiting someone if they have no industry-specific experience. Of the roughly 700,000 veterans currently in employment, over half find themselves in routine, low-skilled or low-paid jobs. It is an alarming waste of talent.
These are the findings of a new Deloitte report with the Officers’ Association (OA) and the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT). Veterans Work highlights the stark disconnect between the rhetoric and reality of veteran employment in the UK. It is one in a series of reports that shine a light on hidden talent in our society – and what can be done to unlock it.
The study builds on the accepted wisdom that service leavers are good for business. It is widely acknowledged that veterans are strong in the very “soft skills” employers crave above teachable, technical know-how. It is why they tend to be promoted faster than average to leadership positions – and the reason London continues to reap the rewards of, and extend, its veteran employment.
What seems to be less-well acknowledged, even in London, is an understanding of the hard skills and experience that service leavers can bring to the table. By definition, “veterans” have been intensely trained, beyond their years, in all manner of specialisms; from procurement to engineering, logistics and finance. Hiring service leavers is not just the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense.
Before judging a veteran’s suitability to any job, businesses should perhaps walk a square mile in their shoes. And in London we must continue to show UK business the way, and ensure both the spirit and letter of the Armed Forces Covenant are followed.