Thursday, 17 Jun 2021

Overlooked and misunderstood: The problems ahead for Britain’s veterans

The government is set to fail in its ambition to make “the UK the best place in the world to be a veteran” unless action is taken now to change attitudes towards former service personnel, according to a military support charity.

A report from the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) says that the changing roles of those in the armed forces will lead to employers and the public having less understanding of the skills and abilities of those leaving the military and could create an increasingly difficult environment for them.

The survey, Lifting Our Sight: Beyond 2030, analysed the socio-economic factors most likely to affect Service leavers.

It found that:

  • As conflict becomes increasingly technology-based, with disinformation, intimidation and cyber-hacks more so weapons of choice, the roles of men and women on this frontline is less visible to the public
  • It could lead to distancing and misperception, with skill sets being overlooked or misunderstood by potential employers
  • This is widening a so-called “perception gap”, with some employers failing to recognise veterans’ values to the civilian workforce

When Fiona Smith left the RAF 11 years ago she thought her adaptable skills set would help her find a job quickly. She was wrong.

“I’ll be fine I thought – and I wasn’t.

“I had that misguided feeling that I’m employable, I’m adaptable, I’m really a great catch. But honestly I was wrong.”

Fiona is now working for a charity.

The chief executive of FiMT, Ray Lock, says the changing nature of warfare is a double-edged sword.

“The increasing use of technology is going to have two opposing factors. Members of the Armed Forces are more skilled in the use of that tech, but employers will have a worsened understanding of what they do. It can be hard to understand what a cyber warrior actually does.

“So on one hand we’ve got an increased skills set, but on the other we have an employer with lessened understanding of what these skills mean and how they can help their businesses be successful.”

One answer, Mr Lock says, is joining up the military with the outside word more.

“Throughout their service careers, people need to be getting civilian qualifications, they need to be exposed to civilian workplaces through job placement exercises – a lot closer link between armed forces personnel and their families and civilian societies, the communities they’re going to retire into.

“These are all actions that need to be improved upon.”

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