A second career as exciting as the first

Cath Aldridge talks about the opportunities for ex-forces people in one of the UK's most dynamic sectors...

Having had a five-year career in the forces; a year training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst before commissioning into the Royal Engineers, I know the challenges of transitioning to civilian life and employment after a role in the military.

Once, promoting ex-forces personnel into new civilian jobs was seen as more of a social value project, to give people a job as a kind of thank you for their service. This emphasis has changed; businesses have realised the skills and mindset military people gain through their training and experience are incredibly desirable in the civilian world.

A career in construction

Recruiting ex-forces personnel will strengthen any business. This includes Willmott Dixon where my role as a “military engagement consultant” includes standardising its engagement with ex-forces people and establishing a structured military recruitment programme.

In my opinion, construction is an excellent fit for people leaving the forces. There are many overlaps which make it attractive to those leaving the military and also enable them to use their skills most effectively. Construction is quite a hierarchical organisation and is very process driven. There is a lot of collaboration and team work, and it also requires a functional and agile mind to engineer solutions to complex problems as they arise. Not delivering is not an option! It is also very much about managing people and resources, which is the bread and butter of a career in the military.

We already have lots of people working here who are ex-forces, construction managers, project surveyors…even our chief health, safety and environment officer is ex-forces! They are real-life examples of how you can forge a successful career in construction with skills and experience gained in the military.

Providing the support to succeed

In order to help more ex-forces people into roles, we are supporting our people to look beyond what can sometimes be very specific parameters when recruiting for roles and positions and to be even more open-minded in terms of how someone can benefit the company, by bringing a range of different skills and experiences and bringing cognitive diversity and leadership potential.

We now have an internal network of ex-forces people, which is great for those already within the company and is also a source of support for those joining. Some members of the network not only assist at recruitment events and insight days but also act as buddies or mentors when someone new joins the business.

Looking to the future

We work hard to attract and recruit people from a range of backgrounds and experiences. We believe diverse teams are more successful and are proud that ex-military people already hold a variety of roles in our business, including design, digital, planning, operations, HS&E, and quality, as well as on the management trainee programme. It goes to show the diverse skill sets military candidates offer, and how they can be applied to a wide range of disciplines.

To offer a rewarding life after the forces, we engage with military charities and organisations who assist people from the forces to make the switch to civilian life, to let them know that both construction and Willmott Dixon are an option for them. To help that process, we have several “insight days” at our offices and are also attending the below careers fairs. Please come and say hi!

11 Feb 2020: VETS Mission Motorsport National Transition Event, Silverstone

25 Feb 2020: Greater London RFCA Construction Insight Day, Fulham

27 Feb 2020: Build Force Armed Forces Construction Insight Day, Manchester

You can also find out more information on how to begin a career with us by visiting our Armed Forces web page or you can send in a speculative application here.