More help is needed to find work for those leaving the Armed Forces

By CEO Teresa Scott

In the UK over 20,000 people leave the Armed Forces for "Civvy Street" each year. This can be a challenging period.

In general ex-service men and women are highly employable. All leavers receive resettlement and careers advice and this is offered for up to two years. According to the Ministry of Defence 96% find employment within six months, many joining industries that match the 150 trades within the forces.

But the MOD does not provide much information about those who remain unemployed after six months and it is this 4% we should be most concerned about.

It is well known that Britain’s ex-service personnel are more likely to end up homeless, suffer from depression, misuse alcohol, or end up in prison than the rest of the population. Unemployment is the less talked about problem, but according to some estimates there are currently 50,000 unemployed ex-forces personnel in Britain today.

Many military leavers face complex challenges. Some leave after long periods of service and face a real challenge to begin a new career in their forties. Others struggle with the loss of discipline and community and face crises of confidence without the support structures they are used to. A significant minority develop serious mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress syndrome, which can leave them withdrawn, afraid and unable to cope with the ordinary life, let alone work.

At Kennedy Scott we deliver Work Programme training and support for the long term unemployed and regularly have customers with military backgrounds referred to us for help. Interestingly this element of a customer’s background is not often something identified at referral, instead it is something we learn as we develop our own relationship with the customer.

One example is Ricky, who was referred to our Harrow office earlier this year having been out of work for fourteen months after eight years’ service as a soldier in the army. Ricky was homeless, had no other work experience, his confidence was very low, and he had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Ricky had begun to have nightmares about the traumas he had witnessed in Afghanistan. He described regularly waking up screaming and sweating. He became so terrified of the nightmares that he could no longer go to bed at night. As a result he could no longer work or function properly in the day. He felt as if his whole system had shut down.

Kennedy Scott referred Ricky to a local homeless charity who sourced accommodation for him. We offered courses on how to find work, interview techniques, confidence building and motivation. After two months support Ricky’s confidence had started to grow, he was feeling a lot better within himself and also he was having better nights. He slowly started to believe in himself again and became increasingly confident to mix with others and socialise.

Ricky had always been passionate about fitness and had an idea to set up a boot-camp fitness training business and approached his adviser with this idea. Kennedy Scott helped Ricky get registered with HMRC, pointed him towards a six week self-employment course at a local college, assisted Ricky with marketing materials to promote his business and provided some financial support to get started. Within three months Ricky had sourced enough customers to start his business, running evening training sessions at a local park. He now has a thriving business, a steady income and hasn’t looked back.

Another customer, Mark, was referred to us last year. He was an ex-serviceman and like many service leavers had initially found work as a security guard. Unfortunately Mark had a brush with the law and subsequently spent some time in prison. On release, unable to work in security again, and unable to find alternative employment, Mark began to suffer from depression.

Kennedy Scott helped Mark regain his self-confidence and motivation and found him manageable part time work at a local kitchen. We supplied him with trousers, polo shirts and footwear for this new role. Over time Mark’s confidence grew enough to increase his hours and come off benefits completely. He is now happy in his employment and feels he is able to move on with his life.

For unemployed ex-service personnel barriers to employment can be complex and multiple. Much rests on rebuilding confidence. It takes individualised one-on-one support to identify the very valuable transferable skills these individuals have gained through their military careers and patience in order to re-motivate them to turn their lives around. Without this kind of support the consequences can be disastrous, but with it there are very real opportunities for our ex-serviceman and women to pursue fulfilling alternative careers which build on their past experience and utilise their very valuable skills and training.

[The names of our customers mentioned above have been changed to protect their anonymity]

Teresa Scott, Founder and Chief Executive, Kennedy Scott