Boosting the Lifting Industry by helping military leavers
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24 Aug, 2023
Ross Moloney, CEO of the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA), explains how the Association is helping those who have served their country to boost the Lifting Sector.
Where our next generations of engineers and innovators are going to be found is a constant concern shared by LEEA and its members. Unfortunately, ‘lifting equipment engineer’ doesn’t instantly come to the mind of a sixth form careers advisor. One obvious source of personnel possessing at least some of our required skills and attributes lies among those who are transitioning from the armed forces into civilian life. Indeed, quite a few of our own team at LEEA have a military background. But building the connections between this pool of talent and their potential employers can be challenging.
The Royal Navy, and Royal Marines, the Army, and the RAF all train and employ many personnel with direct experience of lifting engineering. Think of swapping an engine out of a fighter aircraft, or a tank, or changing a propellor shaft on a ship at sea. Many other personnel, although not directly trained in these skills, have acquired the attributes and attitudes that our industry craves, including the ability to follow instructions, make and take responsibility for decisions, train and lead others. There are around 200,000 people in the ‘tri-service’ pool, of which around 15,000 a year are transitioning, after short or long service, into civilian life. Morally, we have a responsibility to support our service men and women in this transition as well as having the pragmatic need to capture their skills.
In the UK, the Career Transition Partnership (CTP) sits at a high level and takes a fairly broad view, but working with it are various military bodies and civilian charities and other organisations. Since 2006 there has been an ‘Armed Forces Covenant’ by which companies sign up (LEEA itself is a ‘Silver’ signee), essentially promising to give service leavers a fair crack of the whip when being considered for employment. How that plays out may vary.
Adam Marchant-Wincott offers an example. He is Director of Employment with the White Ensign Association, a charity, founded by Lord Mountbatten in 1958 and aiding not only RN/RM personnel but also the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. Marchant-Wincott explains that under the ‘Employer Recognition Scheme’, affiliated organisations pledge to engage through ‘Insight to Industry’ days, work placement, involvement in Armed Forces Day (24 June this year), Remembrance Day activities, and perhaps most importantly by reviewing recruitment and HR policies – for example for spouses or dependants who because of postings have not been able to establish a career path.
Warrant Officer Class 1 (Artificer Sergeant Major) Tom Basford is currently the Advice, Retain, Transition, Engage Warrant Officer for the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), which sees part of his unique role leading RAJA – the acronym for the REME (Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers) Association Job Agency, established by his Corps in 1993 in support to their service leavers, reservists and veterans, providing an engineering focused support mechanism with their links to civilian engineering industry.
Based in Regimental Headquarters REME in MOD Lyneham, Wiltshire RAJA works in a somewhat similar fashion to WEA, with companies, consultancies, recruitment specialists. Both organisations help people across the whole gambit of engineering specialisms – the Navy of course has shore, sea and under-sea talents. REME includes trade groups from electronics and avionics to vehicle and recovery mechanics, metalsmiths (including of course ship-building skills) and armourers, as well as technical support specialists. Many of these tradespeople have direct experience of lifting technology and practice; all are fully appraised of risk management, health and safety, and other elements that are vital both in the military and in our industry.
WEA and RAJA have similar goals, which among other things, include supporting service leavers in their transition to civilian careers. Importantly, these organisations work not only with service leavers, but also reservists, spouses, dependants and others. WEA offers leavers, or those about to leave the Navy, a range of services including job boards, publishing profiles/CVs that potential employers can see, searches for job opportunities within our industry and advice on drafting CVs, which may not be in form or content quite what a civilian employer is used to. There is also package negotiation – how does a 20-year veteran know what he or she is ‘worth’ in civilian life? And the organisation generally brings ‘both sides’ together.
LEEA is signed-up with both these organisations, and others although comparable RAF-based organisations seem a little thin on the ground.
It is undeniable that ex-service personnel face certain barriers in transitioning to civilian life. Some are simply absurd, such as the casual assumption that ‘all servicemen have PTSD’. Actually, very few do, and the support available for those is pretty good on the whole. There are problems in skills matching – which may be simply a matter of language and terminology – and of course most will have acquired their skills ‘on the job’ rather than through college, which may baffle some HR procedures.
Qualifications gained in service may not match equivalent civilian qualifications. Timing could also be an issue – typically, leaving the services is a 12-month process – and although the forces provide for this resettlement period – through, for example, funding for training courses, travel and leave – the serviceman or women is still doing the ‘day job’ and may not be available for immediate employment on Civvy Street.
How can we help?
So how can LEEA members help their businesses, and those who have served their country? Engaging with CTP, WEA, RAJA and other organisations is a good start. We can deliver ‘insight’ to what our industry offers – not necessarily limited to forces personnel but couched in terms that acknowledge their different experience. Engage with Linked-In and other social media accounts that the various organisations host.
LEEA itself has developed a Military Training Scheme – our own Training Manager, David Thomson, served in REME as a recovery mechanic for 23 years. MTS is designed to help all service leavers into a new career path in the lifting industry. Firstly, it gives free access to our e-learning Foundation Certificate training and assessment. This is ‘entry level’ to our industry, but is a life-long, globally recognised qualification. It can be taken at the student’s own pace (conceivably, while still serving) and is a pre-requisite for our advanced Diploma course, which are available at member rates and potentially fundable through the CTP. This applies from within six months of leaving to 2 years after end of service, regardless of service branch, trade, experience or previous qualifications, and already numbers of ex-service people have successfully passed through this route.
LEEA is of course a truly global association. Many of our member companies work in, or are based in, other countries, while of course significant elements of our own armed forces are drawn from Commonwealth and other states. So, our Foundation Course offer is available to ex-service people regardless of their service branch, or the country they served.
Also, many countries have official or charitable organisations analogous to WES or RAJA: LEEA is keen to assist our member companies, wherever they are working in the world, to foster links with such organisations and both aid and tap the local ex-military talent pool for our world-wide industry. If you think we can help, please get in touch at email@example.com