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A walk on the Wild side
Former frontline medic, Francesca Burrows, served in the Army for 12 years and was awarded the DZ Award for Bravery* during her tour of Afghanistan. She left the Services in 2016 and has found a way of transferring her unique experiences to a new role delivering first aid and leadership training programmes with Call of the Wild, one of the UK’s most innovative training companies …
It feels like a long way from war-torn Afghanistan to the rugged landscape of South Wales, but in many ways the transition has felt fairly seamless.
In Afghanistan, I was responsible for teaching all new soldiers entering the country – there were more than 200 new soldiers per day, so it was a big task! I also became the first-response medic, charged with organising the medical training of 350 soldiers. In 2015, I was promoted to senior manager, responsible for the medical service and support of 550 infantry soldiers.
I’m really proud of my Army career and the skills and mind-set it gave me.
Preparing for the future
I gained a string of qualifications during my 12 years’ service – these ranged from medical and military qualifications to things such as Mountain Leadership. I think many of these qualifications helped me to work out what I wanted to do on the outside.
Although I loved what I did, my priorities had changed over time. I wanted to be closer to home and family – and to start to build my own family, too.
Now, instead of battling the Taliban, I am helping to deliver training courses for a range of companies and organisations from all industry sectors. The role is different, but my Army career prepared me for setting goals and taking the necessary steps to achieve them.
Finding a suitable role
I wanted to find a position within a company that had a similar sense of camaraderie to my Army position. My first job in civvy street was as a first aid trainer – I went to apply for a course using my Enhanced Learning Credits (ELC), and they recognised my qualifications and invited me to an interview.
I joined Call of the Wild a few months ago. I was attracted to them because of their values and standards. After being in the military for 12 years you get very used to a family feel and this company gave me that.
Their support and professionalism shone through and it’s something I wanted to align myself to. I am really looking forward to the challenge ahead, developing the first aid offer and working on leadership programmes.
Call of the Wild owns a 73-acre training centre on the hills above the village of Abercrave in the Brecon Beacons National Park. I have joined a team of 50 staff, 25 of whom are full-time.
My role here focuses on business development. I contact previous and existing clients, and answer any queries or source new enquiries. I am also involved with site visits and meetings, where we assess how we can add the most value to a business or organisation. I also book people on to first aid and health and safety courses.
I love my job! I love that the team and company have good values and standards – they are professional and fair, and they want to make a positive impact to society. Their ethos is very similar to a military ethos, and very family orientated. They work to better one another, and are always looking to improve, grow and help more people … and that’s exactly the type of company I wanted to work for.
Planning for civvy street
I’m really glad that I registered for Enhanced Learning Credits. I chose to do a higher-education qualification to better my chances of employment in civvy street. I think it’s really important to register for ELC. A lot of people know that they are there, but they think it’s a long-winded process to use the grant. However, it’s actually very simple to do and I highly recommend everyone uses what they are entitled to – you can never learn too much!
Through ELC I did a CAVA Assessor Awards/Certificate Qualifications course, which was really helpful to have on my CV. I had heard from previous Service leavers that it’s a good qualification to have, and hoped that the course would give me a different experience of education and teaching styles. In the military, you get used to teaching in the same style, whereas this course teaches you to be a more versatile teacher, which is definitely needed in the civilian workplace.
I think the single most important skill that I’ve transferred from my military background is discipline – it’s about turning up on time and doing what you said you would. And accountability – if I’ve said I’ll do something I will do it.
There are lots of other things too – like always being smart and well presented, and having a robust mentality, which is something that has helped me to teach to all sorts of students.
Enthusiasm and motivation to get a job done, no matter what, is another key transferable skill. And that get-up-and-go mentality, no matter what the hour or what is needed, you get it done – that is a very powerful life skill.
And, of course, there’s teamwork – the value of helping others even if you have things to do yourself is something that is drilled into you in the Army, where you have a strong sense of team: you don’t finish until the last man has finished, and that outlook is invaluable in any workplace.
Doing a one-week resettlement course really benefited me. I think it helped me mentally more than anything. It’s a big adjustment period and the course helps you to realise what’s going on in the outside world and how you can best prepare for it.
The course also helps you to realise the qualifications you have and actually how much of an asset you would be to a workplace. It boosts your confidence and gets you mentally prepared for big change.
I have found that my personality, and the skills and drills I learned in the military actually fit into civilian life well, so I haven’t had to change much. I think the biggest and most difficult change has been getting used to not being given orders. Daily and weekly you are told what to do in the military, but in my new job role the company very much trust me and let me get on with things, and are there to support and guide me. It’s a very strange feeling not reporting back to someone on what you’ve done that day.
Advice for others
I think my main advice would be don’t worry! Civvy street is not as bad as we think it is. Don’t worry about not getting a job – we all have qualifications and life experience that workplaces love and want.
Attend all the mandatory courses because they are so useful, and make sure you take up all the grants that you’re eligible for.
I think it’s important to take the time to get yourself mentally ready, too; speak to people who have just gone through the transition, not those who have been out for years. If you speak to the people who have left most recently, they can tell you exactly what it’s like.
And stay connected with those that are still serving when you leave. It helps with the transition – don’t totally cut yourself off from the Services.
It’s not an easy transition, but make sure you get into a routine as soon as you can and just enjoy the new chapter!
ABOUT CALL OF THE WILD
Call of the Wild has been delivering personal, team and leadership development programmes for its clients for 19 years. It has its own 73-acre training centre in the Brecon Beacons National Park and travels all over the UK delivering programmes to clients, with the aim of creating positive, measurable, transferable and lasting behavioural change for its clients.
Call of the Wild’s philosophy is based on experiential learning – believing that the most powerful and lasting learning comes from an individual’s experience of the world and their subsequent reflection on that experience. Learning by doing, not just listening.
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