A new report, ‘Self-employment and the Armed Forces Community’, has revealed the barriers ex-Service personnel face in becoming self-employed after leaving the Armed Forces…

Research conducted by The Institute for Employment Research at the University of Warwick, supported by defence technology company QinetiQ and X-Forces Enterprise (XFE) – which supports entrepreneurship in the military community – and funded by Forces in Mind Trust, was carried out to understand what more could be done to support ex-Service personnel successfully move into self-employment.

The report was launched at the X-Forces Enterprise fifth Anniversary event at the London Stock Exchange.

The findings show that self-employment is highly desirable among veterans, with being their own boss the most attractive aspect. However, many veterans become self-employed years after leaving the Services, often as a result of disillusionment with their experiences in paid civilian employment.

The survey of veterans, targeted towards those who had already moved into self-employment or had considered it upon leaving, and those currently transitioning into civilian life, found that 43% of veterans said they had planned to become self-employed on leaving the Forces, compared to 55% who said they’d seek full-time employment.

However, the research also highlights a number of barriers the ex-Service community face in becoming successfully self-employed including:

  • A lack of understanding of commercial environments and skills like marketing and communications
  • Lack of finance – with many experiencing difficulties in getting loans and having to use their own savings
  • Difficulty translating the skills they learned in the Forces into a commercial environment
  • Difficulty adapting to a civilian environment – where there was considered to be less teamwork and an overarching focus on money
  • Reality falling short of expectations – with some finding it much harder than expected

The report points to the need for better support, information and advice from the Ministry of Defence (MOD) as Service personnel transition out of the Armed Forces – about the realities and practicalities of working in the civilian labour market. Asked when support would be most useful, six months before leaving the Armed Forces and two years after leaving were seen as the most crucial times – showing the importance of having long-term support to ensure the transition succeeds.

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