RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity, which is currently celebrating its 135th birthday, is launching Military Women,...
‘When serving in the Army I didn’t think about my future,’ says Craig Froggatt, who, having served for four years, found himself homeless on the beach in Skegness. ‘I presumed that, when I came out, I would have an easy ride returning to civilian life.’ Here he tells us what really happened and how he received the help he needed.
Looking back, I had been too confident, and I ended up paying the price. Jobs were scarce, so I ended up working in an amusement park. It didn’t take much skill, and it was quite mundane work, but at least it was a job.
Unfortunately, the work was only seasonal, and that meant I struggled through the winter when there was no work. You had to work for summer to live through the winter. I lost my job, and I couldn’t keep up with the rent, and then I lost my house. I had nothing. I pitched a tent on the beach and that’s where I lived. Winter made my new living conditions unbearable.
It got to the point where I didn’t think I could carry on. I needed help, and I asked for it. Even though I was living on the beach I still had my phone, I kept it turned off most of the time because I had no way to keep it charged, but that is what I used to search for help. I found the charity Help 4 Homeless Veterans, and I told them I needed help immediately because I didn’t think I could have gone on another day. In the Army you either fight or die – being a civilian is no different, and I chose to fight.
The next day I was off the beach and on my way to Barnsley, where Help 4 Homeless Veterans is based. All I had was the rucksack on my back. The charity housed me in a flat; it only had a radio, a chair and a book, but it felt like I had a home again. I asked the charity for help with finding some work, and that’s when they introduced me to ntrs (Network Training & Resource Solutions). ntrs invited me to an open day, and I got to see all the facilities they had for training; it was a completely eye-opening experience – the equipment was incredible.
I knew what I now needed was funding. I had nothing, but I needed to get on a training course, to open new possibilities and put myself on a new career path. I investigated the jobs that ntrs training could lead to, but I didn’t care about the money, I just wanted a profession. I needed a purpose, and learning new skills in telecoms could lead me to that. I asked The Royal British Legion for funding, and I asked my regiment for help, and I eventually secured full funding from them to be able to start my course at ntrs. I thought I had no options because I didn’t have ELC and didn’t get resettlement assistance. I knew I needed to take a leap and change my career. I wish I had asked for help as soon as I came out. After all, I had earned it.
I decided to do a Digital Communications Network Infrastructures & Services EAL level 3 course. The course started with theoretical lectures for the first couple of weeks. When the practical training kicked in, everything I had learned fell into place and started to make sense. We were putting knowledge into practice, and I loved it. The complexity of it made me more and more fascinated. Initially, I didn’t think I was smart enough for a course like this, but if I can do it anyone can. You just need the drive to want to learn. All trainers at ntrs are ex-Forces, which means they knew what I had been through, and they were superb. They made me feel more comfortable through the process because I didn’t feel alone. They understood me.
After the course was over, I was craving more. Five weeks later I got myself an interview at Linbrooke, which is ntrs’s parent company. I was interviewed to be a storeperson and got the job there and then. I started at Linbrooke and have been working there ever since. The people who I work with are all likeminded – 40% of us are veterans, and the fact I’m not alone in what I have been through really helps me.
After working for a couple of years, I am now on my way to buying my own house and being able to move back to Lincolnshire. When I move home, I’m going to work in telecoms. I understand that this journey is a slow process but going from having nothing, and thinking of ending it all, to being so close to buying my own house is incredible. Without the training, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am loving working at Linbrooke. I am gaining more skills and now feel as though I have a purpose.
I came out of the Army and I was at the bottom. I was living on a beach with no money in my pockets, and today I am looking to put a deposit on a house in Lincolnshire. If I can do it, anyone can – you just need to use the determination the Army drills into us.
To find out more about Network Training and Resource Solutions (ntrs), visit http://ntrs.co.uk
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