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The Wright move! One man’s successful cross-border resettlement
Being based in Germany – and wanting to stay there – former WO2 Ian Wright found making the transition from military to civilian life a tougher than usual proposition, but his meticulous planning of his resettlement paid off and has seen him carve out a successful new life in his adopted country. His story has some useful pointers for others who might find themselves in a similar position …
Ian Wright served with the Royal Lancers, 9/12 Royal Lancers, Light Dragoons and 13/18th Royal Hussars for 22 years, leaving the Army in June 2015. The former WO2 spent all of his career in Germany, completing three operational tours in Bosnia and two in Iraq. Now working at the Autostadt visitor attraction in Wolfsburg, Germany, as a chauffeur within a complex team, his daily routine is as varied as it was in the military. He drives a multitude of vehicles, ranging from a VW up to a MAN Lion’s coach. He also teaches English-speaking guests how to navigate across the demanding cross-country circuit at the Autostadt.
During his last six months of service, the 9/12 Royal Lancers were one of the first units to leave Hohne as part of Army 20/20, and on 2 May 2015 amalgamated to become the Royal Lancers in Catterick. Why is this relevant? As Ian says, leaving the Forces is a hectic and stressful time anyway, with an uncertain future ahead, but the usual pressures of the experience were compounded for Ian by this change and, needless to say, trying to conduct administration between the UK and Germany was a challenge to say the least!
On top of this, he had realised early on that making the transition from military to civilian life would not be easy, especially as he was living in Germany, so he planned his resettlement meticulously, starting in 2008 – a full seven years before he was due to leave the Services. He already knew what goal he wanted to achieve and set about how he was going to accomplish his aim. He attended CTP events in Herford annually and gained vital information about the German job market. He learned to speak German fluently and attended Service courses that helped him progress to Standard Language Proficiency 2, which is equivalent to a qualification at the University of Westminster. Furthermore he completed a diagnostic test from the Goethe Institute in Herford at a CTP event and gained a B2 grade, which is widely recognised by German employers.
GERMAN RECOGNITION FOR PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATIONS FROM OTHER COUNTRIES
For the past three years, those who have qualifications from outside Germany or have learned a trade abroad have been able to apply to have their vocational qualifications professionally recognised there. In a unique nationwide on-site model, the Industrie- und Handelskammer (IHK) in Braunschweig, the German equivalent of the UK’s Chamber of Commerce, has professionally recognised foreign qualifications covering more than 250 occupations, from office management to mechatronics.
In March 2015, IHK President Dr Wolf-Michael Schmid, awarded the 100th recognition notice to Ian Wright, who subsequently proved that his qualification BTEC level 7 in Strategic Management, achieved from his WOs’ CLM, fully satisfied the German apprenticeship regulations for accreditation as an office manager (Kaufmann für Büromanagement).
The professional recognition procedure in German industry and trade usually takes up to three months. Ian’s took only one month. The former tank commander had previously been made aware of the possibility while attending a training event (CTP Industry Awareness) and comments, ‘When a soldier retires from the Army, it is invaluable to have civilian qualifications. My training was equivalent to that of German office manager. The recognition process worked out great!’
During his Service career, Ian gained a multitude of qualifications, but the civilian-recognised level 7 Diploma in Leadership and Management from Stratford University was, he says, the most valuable he gained. This was achieved via the numerous promotion courses at the unit and Bovington in the UK. He attended a CTP workshop in October 2014 and spoke to the German Chamber of Commerce (IHK Bielefeld), who were in attendance. They signposted him along their channels and, in March 2015, recognised his British management qualification (see box). He now also holds a Kaufmann für Büromanagement qualification.
In March 2015, he sought assistance from a professional CV writer in Bochum, Germany, and transferred his British CV to a German lebenslauf. This was no mean feat, and he found the money spent on a professional photographer and CV writer worth its weight in gold.
In April 2015 he researched his future employer and discovered they were attending an IT job fair in Hannover. He attended this and took the opportunity of a face-to-face meeting with the personnel department from the Autostadt, who gave him vital tips on how to complete a successful application. This meeting was critical and the ‘five-minute commercial’ practised on his CTW, and well as the interview techniques learned there, undoubtedly enhanced his prospects. The first impression made with his future employers broke the ice and proved to them he was serious about his intentions.
Over the next five months he attended numerous interviews and selection processes, which were ‘nerve-racking to say the least,’ he says. The wait in between each process was a month at a time, and patience and self-belief were what guided him through this stressful period. On 10 August 2015, Ian’s mother sadly passed away, while on 14 August he had an interview lined up with the managers of the chauffeur service at the Autostadt. The interview lasted for more than an hour and initially they didn’t want to employ him due to his being over-qualified! However, he swayed their opinion and, when he had informed them of his long-term goals and aims, they decided to give him a fair chance.
Having never been employed by a civilian firm, he needed to start out on the career ladder again from the bottom. Luckily, following that interview, he gained a contract that started on the 16 September 2015.
Now Ian is fully integrated into his team, has attended German seminars and promotion courses, and is enjoying life outside the Services. The transition for him went well but the time-frame from application to gaining employment shocked him – a real eye-opener!
He told Quest, ‘I have been officially employed at the Autostadt in Wolfsburg for just over two years now. I was initially given a timed contract for a six-month period, which would have been extended twice at the maximum. I was more than fortunate, though, and was given a fixed contract in December 2015 (after only three months). This is a rare occurrence in the German civilian world and naturally turned a few heads. I was over the moon, obviously, and have attended numerous work-related seminars (Weiterbildung) – a fact that has no doubt enhanced my employability within the company.
I would seriously recommend getting involved in any company event
‘I also trained with the Autostadt dragon boat team in 2016 and we won the novices cup at the Ritz Carlton event in August of that year. This integrated me even further into my new employment and was a useful networking tool within the company. In fact, I would seriously recommend getting involved in any company event.
‘Every day is thoroughly enjoyable and varied, and my work colleagues and the guests with whom I have contact on a daily basis make it for me, to be honest. The wage is a normal German civilian wage, in line with the rest of the population and is naturally a drop from what I earned as a Warrant Officer. However, I knew that before I left and we adapted our lifestyle accordingly, so it wasn’t so much of a culture shock. But, that said, life is enjoyable and I actually like getting up to go to work – how many people can say that these days?!’
The main point Ian wishes to make to Quest readers is, be prepared and plan well in advance. German employment is achievable with meticulous planning and preparation. Good luck – or perhaps that should be Viel Glück!
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