Former soldier Jel (Jeremy) Bearder served in the Royal Regiment of Artillery from 1986–91, in locations including the UK, Germany, Cyprus and Canada. He had always loved sport, and represented his regiment at football, rugby, tennis, cricket and athletics (junior Army discus champion 1990), and competed at swimming (butterfly) within his unit. When he left the Army he missed the comradeship he’d enjoyed with his fellow soldiers.
Added to this, Jel’s relationship broke down in 2008. He left the family home and his two boys behind, and became quite low. He realised he needed a decent career and, as sport and competing had been such a big part of his life, a friend suggested British Military Fitness (BMF).
On learning more about this organisation, he became very excited about the potential to work for BMF, but found he would need to complete an NVQ level 1 course before he could be considered as a trainer. Not in regular work at the time, the course fees were out of his reach.
Shortly afterwards, and just by chance, Jel was passing his local Royal British Legion office, so he popped in for a chat. They quickly put him in touch with Civvy Street, the RBL’s employment service, which helps ex-Service personnel make the transition to civilian life. Within a couple of weeks, Civvy Street confirmed that not only would it cover the costs of the level 1 NVQ but also the level 2.
About Veterans’ Gateway
Veterans’ Gateway is a first point of contact for Veterans, their families and carers who are in need of support. The service is delivered by a consortium comprising The Royal British Legion, Poppyscotland, Combat Stress, Connect Assist, the Ministry of Defence and SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity. Veterans’ Gateway represents a pathway to a full list of services, from housing and recovery to mental health services, financial and employment advice. It aims to reduce confusion for Veterans seeking support within the military charity sector and to ensure it can signpost to the right service for any need a Veteran may present with.
For more information, or if you are in need of support, call 0808 802 1212, text 81212 or visit www.veteransgateway.org.uk
Fast forward to after he’d passed the NVQ and Jel found himself shadowing various BMF sessions in parks around London. He quickly went on to lead his first session in Finsbury Park and says: ‘I felt alive being outside after what had been a pretty rough time for me. I was starting to get my life back into some kind of reality thanks to The Royal British Legion and its fantastic Civvy Street service.’
Jel has been working for BMF for more than nine years now and is currently the park manager at four London events as well as representing BMF at events across the country and abroad. He says: ‘Leaving the Forces and then having to choose and find a new career can be a really challenging time. You need support around you and having experts on hand is vital. I can’t thank the RBL enough for its assistance in providing me with a new career and helping me to build a new life. It’s given me a new direction and purpose, and I will be forever grateful.’
The Royal British Legion is just one of the specialist employment referral partners that is working with the Veterans’ Gateway initiative not only to help Service leavers transition out of the Armed Forces, but also those who are looking to change careers and even start their own business. ‘The service Veterans’ Gateway offers is invaluable for those beginning or already on their journey to a new career,’ says Jel. ‘Having done it myself I’d say to any Veteran to use what help is out there. It’s given me a direction and purpose and, if 2018 is your year for finding a new path, get in touch to see if there’s support available.’