Research published by Deloitte, the business advisory firm, in collaboration with armed forces charities the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) and the Officers’ Association, reveals a ‘stark disconnect between the rhetoric and the reality’ of veteran employment…

‘Veterans Work: Recognising the potential of ex-Service personnel’ highlights that – despite more than 1,000 businesses signing the Armed Forces Covenant – UK business is, in practice, putting Service leavers at a disadvantage. While 71 per cent of employers say they would consider employing veterans, just 39 per cent would employ someone without industry specific experience.

The statistics also show that although 87 per cent of employers are aware of organisations, programmes or recruitment services designed to specifically support veterans, only 24 per cent use them. Because access to high-skilled employment remains patchy and uneven among service leavers, veterans typically fall back on lower paid, routine jobs, the study finds.*

This means employers are failing to make the most of the ‘soft skills’ veterans possess. According to the figures, 36 per cent of businesses find it hard to fill roles demanding strategic management skills, 32 per cent struggle to fill positions involving managing and motivating staff, and 30 per cent jobs requiring team working.** Those employing veterans agree they are particularly strong in communication, planning and time management (95 per cent) and team working (100 per cent).*** As a result, more than half (53 per cent) of businesses that do employ veterans promote them quicker than the rest of the workforce.

Chris Recchia, partner and head of Deloitte’s military transition and talent programme, said: “There is a stark disconnect between the rhetoric and the reality of veteran employment. We want to galvanise UK companies into greater awareness about what veterans can bring to their business. Employers have told us there is a skills gap and our research shows that the vast majority of veterans have the skills to fill that gap. Business leaders need to understand in no uncertain terms that hiring veterans is not just the right thing to do, it also makes business sense.”

The report calls on policymakers to find a better balance between the short-term, tactical objective of placing Service leavers into employment, with the long-term alternative of developing veterans’ transferable skills and vocational qualifications. As well as improving the collection of veteran data, the study recommends policymakers consider a national strategy and commission for veterans’ employment, working alongside the Defence Skills Strategy. This would help to ensure that both the spirit and the letter of the Armed Forces Covenant are followed and that members of the armed forces are recognised to be beneficial for UK business.

Chris Recchia added: “We have a collective responsibility to get this right. The framework for veterans to gain employment is in place but we want to build on the work already done. It is not just about the push from veterans into corporate life, it should also be about the pull from organisations who recognise what veterans have to offer. We need to put in place a level playing field and shine a light on the challenges some veterans face to secure relevant employment. There is a huge opportunity to fully employ veterans’ skills and experience, our research demonstrates that employing veterans is an act of business, not charity.”

Air Vice-Marshall Ray Lock, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, commented: “Much is spoken about the minority of veterans who do need extra support to make a successful and sustainable transition into civilian life and, quite rightly, those most in need are often at the forefront of media and employment campaigns. However, this report provides clear evidence that this focus is masking the true value that the vast majority of Service leaders can bring to employers, who stand, literally, to profit from the extraordinary qualities veterans possess.

"It is time to stop looking on ex-Service personnel as victims and as charity cases; they’re talented and determined men and women, with rich experiences, readily transferable skills and proven loyalty and dedication. UK businesses should be fighting for the opportunity to employ them.”

Lee Holloway, Chief Executive of the Officer’s Association, concluded: “This represents lost opportunity for both veterans and businesses. Employers must look beyond the requirement for industry experience and make use of the wealth of multifunctional skills that veterans can bring to their organisations. The Officers’ Association will continue to work to remove this artificial barrier and to raise awareness of the skills former Officers can bring to the workplace.”

* An analysis of the employment picture for veterans and working transitions by considering data from the Longitudinal Study (LS) undertaken by the ONS.

** The degree to which medium and large organisations find it hard to fill roles requiring a range of cross-functional skills.

*** When employers are asked which specific skills the individuals they have hired from a military background do well at and which they do less well at.