Skills shortages when hiring? 15,000 leaving the military each year can help

5 min read | Andy Pearson | Article | Recruiting Emerging skillsets

Skills shortages when hiring

At the beginning of 2023, 6 leading UK organisations – Capita, Northrop Grumman, Atos, Leonardo UK, Fujitsu, and Leidos – became the first to sign a commitment to help veterans secure meaningful tech employment after leaving the military. This is a valuable step toward bridging the global digital skills gap, as well as the disproportionate unemployment rate for veterans, who are almost twice as likely to be unemployed than other civilians in the UK.

Last year, the government’s Office for Veterans’ Affairs set up the Veteran Employers Group (VEG), which has already had over 20 organisations signed up as members, supporting the government’s aim of increasing the number of veterans entering employment.

So, why should other organisations be following suit and pledging to hire ex-military personnel, and what’s the best way of incorporating this into your hiring strategy?

Entering the civilian workforce can be challenging

Each year, around 15,000 people in the UK leave the military and return to civilian life. Unfortunately, some veterans struggle with this transition, facing hurdles such as reconnecting with friends and family, adjusting to a different daily routine, and re-joining the workforce. Faced with these challenges, and a possible disconnection from the commercial world, veterans remain at a disproportionately higher rate of unemployment than the rest of the population.

There are a number of charities that assist veterans with their journey back into the civilian workforce, including Forces Employment Charity and The Poppy Factory, as well as government employment schemes for ex-military personnel. However, employers can also support this cause by ensuring their own hiring strategies accommodate the ex-forces community. And aside from being an inclusive employer, there’s a strong business case to engage ex-military personnel in a skills-short job market.

Veterans are a valuable talent pool

Almost 1 in 25 (3.8%) UK residents aged 16+ have previously served in the armed forces. With the UK unemployment rate currently at 4.3%, organisations should be utilising the large ex-military pool of talent, especially since they possess a host of valuable skills. However, veterans often struggle to escape the narrowly defined roles that they are frequently offered, despite their military occupations being so varied – with job roles such as nurses, chefs, engineers, technicians, drivers, pilots, project managers, administrators, and much more.

As well as related hands-on experience, military personnel carry a range of advantageous soft skills that are highly transferrable to the civilian world of work. Veterans often perform well under pressure from working in extremely demanding environments, are likely to be highly effective when it comes to working in a team setting or a leadership role, and are used to being adaptable to the situation – all the while possessing great determination and work ethic.

How to cater your hiring strategy to veterans

Many organisations express a desire to hire veterans, yet fewer are actively tailoring their candidate experience to leverage this valuable talent pool. Here are some actionable strategies you may wish to consider:

  • Learn what military skills can be transferrable rather than being very prescriptive and rigid with candidate requirements – avoid necessitating experience in a particular sector that would exclude ex-service, despite the fact they would be a good fit because of their soft-skills. If possible, make sure any job advertisements you are posting don’t appear to disregard veterans.
  • Rather than passively waiting for veterans to apply to your vacancies, it’s a more effective strategy to actively seek these candidates out. Meeting this talent pool face-to-face, such as by attending ex-military employment fairs, can be a great way to build pipelines for current and future job openings within your organisation. These events are held across the UK all year around, drawing up to 500 service leavers.
  • Furthermore, you can sign up to military transition charities, such as Forces Employment Charity, to give your job opportunities visibility to top ex-military talent.

Veterans remain a hugely undiscovered source of talent, with an enviable range of skills and behaviours applicable across multiple industries. In a competitive hiring environment, creating a forces-friendly hiring culture will be well worth the effort.

We’re proud supporters of the Armed Forces Covenant, and recently received the Employer Recognition Scheme Gold Award, showcasing our dedication to the Armed Forces community.

If you’d be interested in working for a forces-friendly company like Hays, then take a look at our careers page.


About this author

Andy Pearson - Senior Business Director at Hays

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