This past weekend saw Armed Forces Day in the UK, an annual opportunity to celebrate the contributions of the Armed Forces community, including currently serving troops, service families, veterans and cadets.
The occasion wasmarked in countless different ways across the country, from aerial displays by Royal Air Force aerobatic team, the Red Arrows, to free meals for military personnel at Toby Carvery branches.
It’s intended as an important morale-boost for this community - but for those leaving the services and seeking new careers, as some 160,000 did last year, challenges remain.
A November 2018 survey of over 1,780 veterans conducted by Deloitte, the Forces in Mind Trust and the Officer’s Association found that, even among those now in work, almost one in five (17%) scored the difficulty of finding the right job as 10, on a scale where 10 was ‘very difficult’.
Light at the end of the tunnel
During his 17 years in the army, which saw him deployed in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq and Northern Ireland, Shane Wittingham always assumed that he would join the family building firm once he left the service. But it was a seemingly mundane workplace trip and fall, rather than a battlefield injury, that put paid to his plans for a post-Army career in construction. The accident led to foot and ankle injuries that initially went undiagnosed and subsequently led to extensive surgery, a lengthy recovery and medical discharge. Says Whittingham:
For soldiers leaving the army, the hardest bit is figuring out your next logical step and how you should go about it. But there’s also the shock of leaving: for an infantry soldier, running around with a rifle for 17 years, how prepared am I and what transferable skills do I have to get a job on Civvy Street? But there is light at the end of the tunnel.
For Whittingham, that light came in the form of FDM Group, a professional services company that takes ex-forces personnel, along with recent graduates and returners to work, and trains them as IT consultants for their clients. This led to a 7-month placement at the Home Office, and once that contract came to an end, his bosses at FDM Group suggested Wittingham look into Salesforce’s Vetforce programme and work towards his Salesforce Administrator Certification.
The Vetforce programme prepares current service members, veterans and military spouses for civilian careers in IT, consulting and sales, through career-specific training. Participation in the programme is free and members can work their way to Salesforce certifications that open the doors to positions within Salesforce itself or with partners and customers. Over 300 Armed Forces veterans and their partners have so far registered to complete these training programmes, according to Vetforce UK president Paul Lamaison.
Today, Whittingham is working at wealth management firm St James’s Place (SJP), supporting its Salesforce deployment, which aims to create a single view of the company’s partners. He’s based at SJP’s Cirencester offices, a relatively easy commute by car from his home in Whitchurch, Hampshire:
Vetforce was a fantastic opportunity for me, in time at home and after hours work, to grow my profile and skills, get some experience in cloud-based systems and in CRM, and to step into a new career. After 17 years in the army, I’ve already had a full career already, but this has given me the opportunity to grow in a new direction and show employers that I have that ability to take on new skills. It’s a massive drive for me to still provide for my family. That’s very important.
The Vetforce programme has provided me with a new lease of life that has enabled me to learn at my own pace through the virtual learning environment while sustaining employment, participate in the Vetforce group of like-minded individuals to support one another through their Salesforce journey, and have the opportunity to take world-class certifications that will enhance my career prospects.
According to Paul Lamaison, the UK Lead for Vetforce. Salesforce is looking to place hundreds more veterans like Shane into Salesforce roles and will continue to support and enable military charities through its 1-1-1 model.
This kind of model plays a vital role in helping servicemen and women back into work. According to the Deloitte report, when asked about the most challenging aspects of finding the right job, almost one in four (24%) cite a lack of qualifications and experience.
It may even hold answers to addressing the sector’s gender balance, because according to the survey, female veterans are far more likely to describe their experience of finding the right job as ‘very difficult’ compared to the male counterparts - with 27% saying this was the case for them, compared to the survey average of 17%.