What do we know about post-service employment? - Alex Cooper

Date: Saturday February 2, 2019 at 10:02am

When considering life after service there are a great many things that pass through the mind of the Service Leaver; the primary concern for most is employment – can I find and keep a job that will enable me to pay the rent/mortgage and keep my family in a reasonable state?  The answer for most is yes, but this is only part of the equation.  While most of those who have served in the Armed Forces have the ability and attitude to secure employment, it is important to consider to what extent the nature of that employment (and the rest of what makes up one’s existence) can empower good health and wellbeing rather than just meeting the basic needs shown in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs shown below.


Many articles about post-service life (including some of mine) are opinion based, and this is fine if the author is well-read on the subject and is either objective or states their biases up front.  For this one I am taking heavily from a product produced by the Forces in Mind Trust Research Centre, based within the Veterans & Families Institute for Military Social Research at Anglia Ruskin University (I’ll be up front - I am the Centre’s Director).  The products are called Snapshots and are hosted on the Veterans & Families Research Hub www.vfrhub.com; they are lay-friendly summaries of a variety of themes and topics to do with transition and post-service life.  The Employment Snapshot a simple to read summary of what is known about the subject and I recommend it (well I would, wouldn’t I?).

It is estimated that there are 925,000 working age veterans currently living in the UK.  Numbers leaving each year have reduced from 20,000 in 2015 to under 17,000 in 2017.  UK employment has reached its joint highest level since 1975, with 2018 marking the lowest levels of unemployment at 4.2%, down from 4.6% in 2017.  Data from the Ministry of Defence suggests that there is no significant difference in employment status between veterans and the general population. Conversely, research undertaken by The RBL (link in the Snapshot) suggests that working age veterans in the UK are nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as their civilian contemporaries.

The MOD data is a much larger sample size, however, it does not account for detail included in the RBL report, such as the number of people in full time employment vs part time employment. This suggests an overall lack of clarity and understanding of the realities of veteran employment in the UK.  Furthermore, there are differences in opportunities and employment outcomes between the three Armed Services and their various branches.

Army Service Leavers are 12% more likely to be unemployed (not including those who are economically inactive) than Naval (7%) and RAF (7%) Service Leavers.  In determining reasons for differing employment outcomes there are educational and demographic factors to consider, such as the age, gender, ethnicity and rank of Service Leavers, their pre-service educational achievements and their qualifications and skills accrued during service. In addition to personal preference and opportunities, all of these will impact upon the type of employment secured or level of economic activity.

Serving personnel have the opportunity to obtain transferrable skills and further qualifications in order to give themselves the best chance of securing relevant and fulfilling employment after they leave the Armed Forces.  For the most part these are related to the trade group of the individual, but there are many opportunities to undertake elective personal development by accessing the services of the education branch and using learning credits (note – finding time to use them after you leave can be problematic, so try to get through them while serving).

The Career Transition Partnership (CTP) is the official provider of resettlement services for those leaving any of the Services.  CTP provides a range of resettlement services; including advice, career skills, one-to-one guidance, training and job opportunities.  However, CTP is accessed on a voluntary basis so, although it is widely available there will be a number of Service Leavers who do not receive support.

It is widely accepted that the majority of working age veterans go on to have successful and diverse civilian careers.  CTP statistics state that of the Service personnel who left the UK Armed Forces in 2016/17, and used a CTP service, 82% were employed six months after leaving.  However, few data sources exist that report on the quality and security of employment, in terms of whether job roles suit the skill level, interests and experience of the veteran, the type of job roles that veterans access, or longer-term permanent employment status post-service.

Whilst there is significant support and advice to assist Service Leavers in the transition process, there are limitations. For example, the Veterans’ Transition Review (link in the Snapshot) highlights the difficulties of veterans with CVs that require an adjustment from the use of specialist, military terminology in order to make them transferable for the civilian job market.  Communicating military skills to civilian expectations can be problematic, for example, when a veteran does not have the civilian equivalent in qualifications.

There is much more to this subject than can be squeezed into a 900 word article, so I do recommend that you visit the VFR Hub and look through the research and summaries on there.  If you have questions or thoughts you wish to share there is a forum for exchange of ideas and networking https://www.vfrhub.com/forum/.​​​​​​​​​


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