Education and Training

The latest news regarding redundancies and cuts will give some Ex-Service Personnel a rare opportunity to change direction through re-training or gaining extra qualifications.

Opportunities to change direction after we’ve been in a particular career for a long time are rare. It isn’t impossible or especially difficult but it does take a positive decision (sometimes into the unknown) to make it happen. All of the same excuses get churned out: haven’t got time, I’m too old, I’m comfortable in my career and I don’t want to spend money on training are just a few that come to mind. It’s usually a choice that people take their time over but of course since the announcement of redundancies, things have changed.

If you’re looking at re-training or adding extra qualifications to your CV, there are three main options to consider: academic, professional and vocational. It depends on what your new career goal is.

Academic qualifications represent a formal path to certain jobs and sectors. For sectors where tradition is still important – finance, banking and accountancy such qualifications will usually lead to an entry level job with an expectation that you will add professional qualifications and accreditations on top, as you make your way up the ladder. In other specific jobs, such as school teacher, the role is literally ‘all graduate’ meaning that you will need a degree (in an appropriate subject, with further vocational training) to be considered.

It isn’t all highbrow stuff though. If you’re coming out of the military without having gained any academic qualifications at school you can go back to improving basic numeracy and literacy. The learndirect organisation runs courses that can help and improve your confidence in these crucial areas too.

Vocational qualifications are those tied to specific professions. There will usually be at least a small crossover with professional and academic qualification (depending on the level you want to operate at). The career Transition Partnership (CTP) provides vocational courses specifically for Service Personnel in engineering, building, IT and management and there are other opportunities available through colleges and other commercial organisations around the country.

Professional qualifications are perhaps the easiest to attach to readily transferable skills that you’ll have gained in the Services. It is comparatively straight forward to train to be a lorry driver if you’ve spent a portion of your military career driving large vehicles. As well as this, professional qualifications can often trump academic equivalents on a CV. This is usually because they are acquired on an ongoing basis and therefore indicate a continuing progress in the role not to mention that the industry ideas will be up to date. This is particularly important for electricians, plumbers and mechanics where new technologies and methods are cropping up all the time.

Perhaps the best way of deciding on which new qualification to go for is to start with your career goal and work backwards. This will not only help you to decide between the three options listed here but to drill down into specific subject areas, finding out exactly where you need to start. A goal will also help to keep your long term motivation on track as you move forwards.

Once you’ve decided on the kind of course you’ll be looking for you’ll need to look at different ways of studying. For professional qualifications, you can choose to go to college (usually as a part timer) or find a job that will allow you to learn on the job. Far from seeing this as a waste of time many employers will see this as the hallmark of a motivated individual and are likely to want to support you and help you to become a more effective long term employee. It’s possible that they’ll even be able to help fund the training.

Academic and vocational qualifications are usually gained through studying with a college or university. Depending on the level of qualification this can be done full time or part time or perhaps as an evening class.

Going to study at a college can be a daunting idea for an Ex Serviceperson who will probably be surprised at how relaxed the teaching style is. The upside is that discussing ideas and listening to different viewpoints from students and tutors will make the learning easier and livelier, giving you a better chance of taking in the information.

An alternative to a college based course is to find a distance learning or correspondence course. This is exactly as it sounds, with the learning delivered by books or DVDs and assignments sent by post or email to be completed in an agreed timeframe and sent back to the college for grading.

Distance learning doesn’t require a full time commitment to becoming a student but you’ll need to find the discipline to do the reading and complete the assignments. The course syllabus and assignment deadlines will be available to you from the start so that you can build them into your calendar. Distance learning also gives you access to a broader range of courses that in the college setting might be otherwise oversubscribed.

Whatever combination of courses and learning methods you decide on there are organisations that will support you. Adding extra qualifications to your CV also demonstrates a commitment to acquiring new skills and knowledge that helps an employer identify you as a candidate with drive and ambition; key desirables in today’s workplace.