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Business and Government need to work together to help ex-service personnel into work


The Government should work with businesses to help people who leave the Armed Forces to set up their own business, according to a new report from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the military charity Heropreneurs.

With 2.5 million people in the UK currently unemployed and 75,000 people set to leave the Armed Forces within the next two years, the FSB and Heropreneurs are calling on the Government to work with the business community to ensure that its resettlement programme - the way in which it helps get service personnel back into the civilian world - is fit for purpose and to ensure that all service leavers are given adequate help to find a job or to set up their own business.

Small businesses want to employ but do not have the resources available to do so in the numbers needed to help drive down unemployment. So, it is more important than ever that, in order to strengthen economic recovery, starting-up in business becomes an option that is promoted to all people, including service leavers.

In a new report, 'From the frontline to civvy street', the FSB and Heropreneurs have made a series of recommendations to help Government give service leavers the best chance of finding a career or starting-up their own business when they leave the Armed Forces.

The FSB and Heropreneurs believe that all leavers who have completed at least basic training should be treated equally and given the same level of help. And, with a number of organisations that provide help - be that government departments, charities or social enterprises - an overarching body be created to help the service leaver understand all the options open to them.

The FSB and Heropreneurs recommends:

  • Establishing a 'Discharge Commission' to co-ordinate all existing support for service leavers to help find a career or set up their own business
  • Ensuring that resettlement becomes a part of everyday life and is something that every person has to discuss and that support is tailored to the individual and not a one-size-fits-all approach
  • Helping service leavers to translate military experience and qualifications into a format that future employers or business backers understand
  • Ensuring that the Ministry of Defence works with outside recruitment consultancies, charities and business organisations to place service personnel in suitable jobs or helps them to start-up on their own in business
  • Creating a life-long entrepreneurial culture within the forces which begins at cadet stage and carries through to service, so starting up a business is seen as a viable option

John Walker, national chairman at the FSB, said: "The Government is looking to the private sector to further strengthen the economic recovery, but with business confidence fragile and almost 20 people chasing each job vacancy, it must promote self-employment as a viable option to all.

"It is a concern that self-employment is not promoted fully to those people that leave the Armed Forces and we urge the Government to look at the reasons why. It is more important than ever that people are given the skills and the opportunity to start their own businesses."

The news comes as the Royal British Legion's Poppy Factory announced plans last week to help 500 wounded, sick and injured ex-Service men and women from the British Armed Forces into mainstream employment, over the next five years.

For the past few years, The Poppy Factory has been piloting a supported employment scheme and has successfully managed to place more than 60 veterans of all ages in jobs around the UK. Focusing on boosting employment prospects, The Poppy Factory has found and matched employers with clients and part-funded their clients' first year's salary in a number of cases, to allow for a period of flexibility, enhancing training and development into their new role. Continued guidance is given to both the employer and employee to ensure the veteran's smooth transition.

Melanie Waters, chief executive of The Poppy Factory, said: "Ex-Service men and women have a fantastic work ethic, are disciplined, trustworthy and used to performing within a team.

"Many have qualifications that are invaluable for companies today. However, an injury or delayed illness can shatter their lives. We want to help them regain their self-respect and confidence in order to earn a living, so that they can feel a valuable member of society again. This enables them to support themselves and their families and enjoy the next phase of their lives. Having valiantly served their country, we think they deserve it."

"There are a number of employers all over Britain, who could offer these men and women a life-changing job. We have spent the last four years learning about individual issues, differing conditions, range of skills and expectations.

"We have developed relationships with companies and like- minded charities, but there is so much more scope for other businesses to open their doors to a new employee, who may require a little more consideration in the beginning, but will reward that support with long term commitment. So far, we have used our own funds and will continue to do so. However, for this new five year plan to help 500 more ex-Service men and women back to work, we need to raise £4 million."