The British Armed Forces consist of over 150,000 regular personnel and over 80,000 employed as reservists. It is a sector that plays a vital role in society, working around the world to protect the UK’s security, independence and interests, promote peace and deliver aid, as well as provide support to UK citizens and authorities in times of emergency.
Their contribution to society shouldn’t go unnoticed and initiatives such as Armed Forces Day (which took place on Saturday 25 June this year) serve as opportunities to showcase support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community. However, for many it’s not a job for life; some leave the service on completion of their engagement, some are discharged on medical grounds, some leave as a result of redundancy, while others will opt to leave at their own request.
In fact, around 20,000 men and women leave the Armed Forces each year, causing many to seek transition back into civilian life with a meaningful career.
A survey from Lord Ashcroft in May 2012 found that the most widespread concern among UK service personnel was finding a good job when leaving the Forces. Many feared civilian employers would not understand what their military career had offered them in the way of skills. And some in more junior ranks, particularly in the infantry, expected that when they left they would effectively be starting their careers from scratch.
Government programmes such as the Career Transition Partnership (CTP) and the Armed Forces Covenant help support the transition process for service leavers, ensuring fair treatment and access to opportunities, but not all elect to use these schemes.
So how does all this link with the construction sector? Industry forecasts from the CITB indicate that construction needs more than 230,000 new recruits by 2020 in a huge variety of roles, including over 14,000 management staff. Is the construction sector a good fit for ex-recruits and, if so, what can it do to attract this talent?
On the surface, serving in the Armed Forces may appear to be very different to life in construction management, but the sectors share many similarities. For example, in both sectors, teams are required to work together to tight timescales and work in a task-focused and goal-oriented way.
There is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that suggests military personnel have other soft skills that are in demand by the construction industry. In a recent poll of CIOB members, respondents ranked what they perceived to be the most valued skills that military personnel can bring to the industry; these included team working (77%), leadership (43%), the ability to follow instructions (41%) and communication skills (34%).
Construction has the opportunity to be the natural fit for the men and women coming out of the Armed Forces, enabling them to adapt and utilise the skills they honed whilst serving, albeit using them in a different environment.
Clearly there is a huge opportunity to create stronger and more recognisable routes out of the Armed Forces into the built environment sector that would benefit both employers and service leavers. Employers would have a stable pipeline of resilient, motivated leaders-in-waiting that are comfortable with taking on responsibilities and stepping up to challenges. And service leaders would have the opportunity to develop a fulfilling career, utilising their skills and experiences to lead and inspire on challenging and dynamic projects.
So what has the CIOB and wider-construction industry been doing to make this happen?
The CIOB currently offers a wide range of routes into professional construction management, including those that recognise relevant military qualifications, and offers tailored support and advice to people considering entering the industry. The CIOB, together with a number of other organisations, is also supporting BuildForce, a cross-industry initiative that aims to raise awareness of construction careers among Armed Forces leavers and veterans, alongside strengthening recruitment pathways from the services into the sector. BuildForce’s own steering group is mainly made up of ex-military who made the transition into construction, so there are certainly examples for many of today’s service leavers to follow.
Construction is a people-based industry and initiatives like BuildForce and CIOB’s inclusive routes to membership are helping to bridge the gap between the industry and military leavers. It’s important to act together to both establish and strengthen recruitment paths across the Armed Forces, tapping into this valuable resource, supporting our ex-military personnel and boosting the UK economy. And with the number and variety of roles to fill, there has never been a better time to join the sector, so we look forward to continue to build on this relationship and arm the industry for the future.