How Lancashire veterans could be a boost to the county's businesses
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The call comes after Lancashire County Council was handed the gold award in the government’s defence employer recognition scheme (ERS).
The accolade was pinned on the authority’s metaphorical lapel in acknowledgement of its support for the forces community – including the way in which it routinely recruits former military personnel to its own ranks.
County Hall’s armed forces champion Alf Clempson now wants Lancashire firms large and small to follow the council’s lead in matching up veterans with jobs that particularly suit their qualities – which, he says, are many and varied.
“A veteran would bring integrity, discipline, loyalty and self-sufficiency to any role. These are all traits that we’re taught in the armed forces and can easily translate into civilian life.
“I think anybody coming out of the armed forces would be an asset to a future employer – they should improve their businesses without a doubt,” says County Cllr Clempson, who himself spent 24 years in the Scots Guards.
He understands that it can be a challenge for ex-servicemen and women to be parachuted into more mundane employment.
“I was 40 when I came out of the military and didn’t have a clue what to. I had a young family and a wife to kick me up the backside – but if you haven’t got that stability, it would be difficult, because you have relied on the armed forces for however many years it may be.”
After spending a year in the private sector, County Cllr Clempson – who represents Poulton-le-Fylde – eventually became an assistant to another military and political veteran – Wyre and Preston North MP Ben Wallace.
The county council currently employs 85 people with military connections and works closely with the Ministry of Defence’s career transition partnership to find former forces personnel their perfect job with the authority. It has also deployed dozens of veterans to schools as part of a long-running pupil mentoring programme.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands that future recruitment drives are likely to focus on highways and facilities management vacancies, where it is believed that there are particular crossovers between the skills of veterans and those required for the roles.
However, in achieving ERS gold status, the county council also had to demonstrate that the benefits of recruiting ex-military cut both ways – and are felt by the individuals as well as the organisation. A special staff forum for them is due to be established next year.
Kieran Curran, senior policy, information and commissioning manager at the authority, says that flexibility and opportunity are the principles underpinning its veterans employment policy. And that approach also extends to the serving reservists, cadet force adult volunteers and spouses of current and former military personnel who are amongst the forces family at County Hall.
“We are just extremely supportive – so if there are any issues around mobilisation, training, deployment or bereavement, you can get additional paid leave and special leave.
“We have done quite a bit to promote that offer as well – it’s not enough just to have it.
“We can also hook people up with specialist support – from new skills and training to family and mental health support,” Kieran explains.
He says that a desire to develop their skills is by the far the most popular request of ex-forces staff working for the council – and the biggest difficulty for the authority is actually getting staff to highlight their military connections.
“Often it’s just a bit of humility and they don’t want any credit for their service – but we want to support them and show them that we’re proud of them,” Kieran adds.
GOING FOR GOLD
Companies and organisations must progress through each of the three levels of the defence employer recognition scheme to reach the gold standard – a journey which begins by nominating themselves in the bronze category.
At each stage. they must demonstrate to an increasingly exacting standard that they are “forces friendly” and also must have signed the armed forces covenant – a commitment to ensure that present and past military personnel and their families are treated fairly and with respect.
County Cllr Clempson said of Lancashire County Council achieving the highest award: “It shows our commitment to the armed forces community in general and our support for all employees who have served.
“We also now have a duty to encourage other councils and businesses to strive for these awards.
“Employers really should consider looking to the armed forces the next time they are recruiting.”