SkillsActive, the sector skills council for active learning and leisure, is organising a special employment and training fair for veterans those looking to leave the Armed Services. The event offers much needed support to the Armed Forces as the Ministry of Defence has this week announced 4,200 job cuts in a second round of Armed Forces redundancies.

The Fair, to be held at Surrey Sports Park, in Guildford, Surrey, will be held on Thursday 8 March 2012, marking the start of SkillsActive’s Change Gear programme.

The Change Gear Programme is designed to offer specific career change support to ensure those leaving the Services are empowered to make informed decisions about the opportunities available to them in the sport, health and fitness, outdoors, play work, health and beauty, and caravans industries. Continue reading “HELPING SERVICE PERSONNEL CHANGE GEAR”

Brand New

Ronald McDonald doesn’t manage all of his burger restaurants and neither does Burger King – he sits around in his burger palace counting his money. Many of our familiar high street brands are in fact franchises.

The idea is simple. Take a trusted brand that everyone knows and replicate it ‘cookie cutter’ style. Every burger, every sandwich and every cup of coffee tastes exactly the same anywhere you purchase it in the UK or for the really big brands, around the world.

Rather than go through the blood sweat toil and tears of setting up your own business (or brand) from scratch, franchising enables a new business to hit the ground running with everything that the brand has in spades to hand: appeal, standards and reputation.

Building a business
It’s because of this reason that franchisors (the people that own the business) don’t just let anyone into the fold. It wasn’t always the case that McDonald’s ruled the fast food world. That clown had to build his business brick by brick, Big Mac by Big Mac and although he doesn’t want to have a specifically hands on role any more, he certainly wants to protect the brand.

Franchisors are looking for people with certain attributes and qualities. First among these is a desire to make the franchise succeed. This takes hard work and so franchisors are looking for a track record demonstrating a solid and dependable individual. Specific experience in the trade is useful but it’s not the whole shooting match. Training can overcome a lack of any experience but you can’t train a person to be motivated or conscientious.

Of course the franchisor will also benefit from the initial financial outlay that the new franchisee hands over but it isn’t where the real money is earned. The initial sum will kit-out new premises and get the business on its feet. After that the franchisor/franchisee relationship is more of a partnership than you might think. The franchisor will give the franchisee the benefit of their advice and tips on how to make the business succeed.

Training for success
Part of this will be pre-opening training. Clearly, many Ex-Service Personnel are going to be inexperienced where the nuts and bolts of running a business are concerned. The franchisor may well take the opportunity before the franchise opens to make sure that they are up to speed with how employment law works or what the latest health and safety requirements are. Again, the benefit is repaid in the success of the business and it also avoids the worse case ‘barista at major brand coffee shop injured by rogue milk jug’ headlines. From then on the franchisor will keep in touch with the franchisee to make sure that they have all the resources they need. This is all in their favour since they’ll be taking a profit share, not to mention more visibility and market share for the brand.

The major benefit is simple. Whilst setting up a new business on your own is an option and your redundancy package will give you the capital to go it alone, a look at the facts might make you think differently. The reality is that only 20% of business start-ups in the UK are still operating two years after they open, whereas 80% of franchises are still profitable after the same amount of time.

All of this suggests that franchising could be a brilliant option for the long term. Starting small and with support allows the franchisee to grow with the business until such time that they feel confident enough to discuss new ideas with the franchisor or expand their interests to incorporate more ambitious goals. Franchisors are not dictatorial and will certainly appreciate the fact that nobody has the monopoly on good ideas. The regular reporting process that the franchisee goes through is an excellent exercise in discipline as well as a good opportunity to show your worth and air your views.

Your experience counts
Ex-Service Personnel might at this moment be thinking that franchising has nothing to do with what they’ve been doing for the last twenty years. A closer look suggests that this isn’t the case; Services Personnel bring a wealth of experience in following procedures, decision making, communication and getting the job done under trying circumstances. Go on any management training course and these are the cornerstones that it’ll be based on. The point is that you’ve already accrued many of the key skills through your Forces experience and with a bit of tweaking you could be a very effective operator.

Service Personnel are also renowned as being trustworthy and responsible as well as having integrity and a pride in what they’re doing. Add to that the fact that ex-Services Personnel are traditionally financially stable and on leaving the Forces have a ready redundancy fund to invest its little wonder that franchisors look favourably from applications from this group of people.

Choice isn’t a problem either; whether you fancy becoming a restaurateur, an estate agent or mini mart manager with 800 companies in the UK open to franchise agreements you’re bound to find the right business in the correct sector for you. The key to making the right choice is to reflect on your interests and transferable skills.

Read before you sign
Simple advice includes getting a copy of a job description before you start. Take a careful look and make sure that you’re happy with it and feel confident about fulfilling the requirements. Although it isn’t the exactly the same as a job description for an ordinary job it should give you a good idea of what’s involved.

Once you’ve made a decision, a great starting point is to look up the listings of the British Franchise Association (BFA). There are currently 400 members that you can be sure meet the standards set out by the association in terms of the support that they give to potential franchisees. In other words it’s a safe bet within a safe bet.

Franchising provides a sheltered route into business. The initial investment and hard graft will pay dividends assuming you follow the advice of the franchisor that will doubtless back you all the way.

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Franchising Organisations:
British Franchise Association
The British Franchise Association (bfa) is the voluntary self regulating governing body for franchising. The UK market encompasses many franchise opportunities and the association will help you to make a more informed choice about which one best suits you. All members have chosen to be vetted against a strict code of business practice – they endeavour to be good franchisors that can deliver the success that you want.
Tel: 01235 820470

The Franchise Development Centre
Whether developing a new franchise business or enhancing your existing franchise system you deserve to give yourself the best chance of success. Our franchise consultants are experienced, professional and have integrity. They are by your side, enjoy taking personal responsibility for projects and will make it happen. Don’t take a chance with your future – let us help you achieve your business and personal goals.
Tel: 01904 561598

A directory of franchisors looking for potential franchisees in all sectors, as well as a source of information for people looking into different franchising possibilities.

Franchise Direct
Franchise Direct UK is a dedicated resource with a wide list of businesses for sale and franchise opportunities for sale. View an impressive article index relating to franchising, franchisee success stories and more.
The UK Franchise Directory
A detailed index of franchise opportunities with further information covering all sectors and all franchise types.

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.

Recruitment Agencies – Tapping into the Job Market

The job market is tough right now. In fact, it’s always been tough and it always will be. What you need is a reputable expert on the matter to help you to get through it. Recruitment Agencies can help.

You may well have spent the best part of your adult life in the Forces. This is no bad thing but it will mean, particularly if you joined up straight from school, that you have little or no experience of finding a job. Fortunately, recruitment agencies can help to give you the best possible chance in the job market, that even on a good day, can be tough.

Recruitment agencies literally represent you in the job market. Normally a candidate would approach them with his or her CV for an initial assessment and some idea of the type of jobs or sectors they’d like to work in or feel that they would be best suited to. After the agent has had a little time to reflect and collect a few rough ideas together they will usually invite you in to their office for a chat along similar lines. It’s worth making every effort during this time to look and act professionally. The agency has a reputation to protect and will be reluctant to put forward a candidate that might jeopardise that by embarrassing them. The face to face meeting is literally a chance for them to measure you up and to some extent work out how you’d ‘present’ at interview.

Selecting an agent

It won’t be too high pressure, particularly since they’ll realise your position as an ex Serviceperson. In fact, it’s a much more equal partnership than you might think. If you don’t like the agency or the way you’re treated you could choose to appoint another agency to represent you. Although there are (relatively) few jobs and (relatively) many candidates, agencies like to play a numbers game and can’t afford to lose a good candidate with the skills they know your military background will have given you.

At the end of your face to face meeting the agent will usually register your details and ask you about any specific jobs and sectors you’d like to try as well as equally those you’d prefer to avoid. This is a good time to mention any issues, problems or barriers that you know of regarding specific choices. If you have a phobia towards clipboards for example, don’t become a warehouse manager. Your agent will also be able to advise you on the availability of jobs in your ideal sector or if you’re struggling to make a decision advise you on jobs they think your skills and experience make you suitable for.

Recruitment agencies that have established themselves in a sector or geographical area will be able to give you the inside track on what’s happening in their part of the job market. Similarly, businesses will probably already know who they are, how they operate and the types of candidates that they put forward. Their brand, in effect could serve to get your foot in the door, assuming they’ve put forward good candidates in the past (especially if they’ve gone on to become effective employees).

Generalist versus specialist

Although the big high street agencies will usually have a generalist viewpoint they may well have industry experts embedded within their offices (usually in areas like sales, factory work or construction). Other agencies that might be smaller in size may have a specialist angle. They will generally have fewer clients but because of their bespoke services be potentially more respected by their clients (the employers) who you want to get in front of. The nature of the agency you approach will become evident when you meet with them. It’s also worth mentioning that you shouldn’t have to sign up to any exclusive registration and remain free to use other agencies. It is worth mentioning to agencies which organisations your CV has been put in front of because it prevents frustrating duplication of effort.

If you’re certain that you’d like to pursue a career in a particular sector a specialist agent might be your best option. Because of their more intimate knowledge of the clients they’ll be able to match your skills more effectively to the vacancies they have. They’ll also be able to give you the best possible preparation for interview. They might even be on personal terms with the person that arranges to interview you, giving an obvious head start.

It’s true that the best agents will sometimes go to extraordinary efforts on your behalf perhaps raising an expectation of some exorbitant fee that you’ll require for their expert consultation. Actually, recruitment agencies don’t charge their candidates. They sell their services to their clients. All of the pre interview work that the agency does for you is also helpful to their clients from the perspective of filtering good candidates through to the correct sectors, jobs, even specific organisations. This saves employers many valuable man hours in selection interviewing. The only things a reputable recruitment agency might ask you to pay for would be other professional services such as CV building or personality testing (to help you make an informed decision about which sectors you might be effective in).


Not all jobs are full time appointments and some are managed on a temporary basis. Some agencies may be able to put you in touch with organisations offering these types of opportunities. ‘Temping’ is a great way of getting work experience under your belt and really finding out if the job is for you. The only downside is that you’ll be an employee of your agency (and not awarded the rights and privileges of co-workers that have contracts from the actual employer) and you won’t receive pay for holidays or sick days.

Whether you choose to get into temporary, part time or full time employment, recruitment agencies provide an ideal service for anyone who has been away from the job market for any amount of time. They have specialist knowledge and up to date information to share with you. They can also be utilised before resettlement and could potentially arrange a contract to be waiting for you on your return home.

Getting the Best from Your Recruitment Agent


Your recruitment agency won’t know anything about you, at least initially. Try to have a rough idea of some of the sectors, job types and maybe organisations that you’d like to work with. Make sure you target your CV towards these areas through highlighting the more appropriate skills and experiences you’ve acquired.

Be open

Recruitment agencies have knowledge about the job market that you don’t. Listen and learn in order to get the inside track on what’s going on.

Be honest

Let the agency know in advance if there are any specific things they need to know about you that could affect your employability in certain areas, ie: scared of heights, injured back or allergic to Velcro etc.

Be nice

Good candidates and bad candidates both circulate in the job market. The bad candidates get in the way of agencies doing their job and suffer the elbow as a consequence. Being a good candidate starts with treating your agent like a trusted professional and being comfortable to work with. This will surely encourage more effort on their part for you.

Be persistent

There is nothing wrong in following up with an agency, especially if they have given a date by which to do so. Following up on the phone and in person when you ‘happen to be passing’ shows interest and keeps you at the top of their mind when talking about vacancies.

Distance Learning

On leaving the Armed Forces some personnel choose to work towards qualifications that will gain them access to new areas of employment. Rather than scruffing down and becoming a campus based student, distance learning is often the preferred option.

Distance learning gives students an opportunity to take courses from remote locations to the institution that teaches them. The most famous institution of this type in the UIK is undoubtedly the Open University but many of the major universities both here and abroad will run distance learning courses.

Out of sight doesn’t mean out of mind. After registering on a course you’ll be assigned to a tutor who will be responsible for setting projects and activities and will advise you on how to go about completing them. Once the project has been completed the tutor will provide feedback and suggestions on any areas of weakness and how to improve where necessary on the next one. Generally this will happen online and by email although there may also be arrangements in place (depending on the course) for you to speak with your tutor over the phone (and sometimes in person as required). Again depending on the institution running the course there may be opportunity to join student forums and discuss ideas with others on the same course.

Instead of lectures delivered in a classroom or theatre setting, you’ll receive DVDs by post or be directed to online and televised material. Again the Open University is famed as a past master at this type of teaching by proxy.

The benefits are simple to understand. Distance learning does not require a full time commitment to becoming a student and going to lectures, although you’ll need to adhere to the discipline of study in your spare time balancing the commitment with maybe work or family. The course syllabus and assignment deadlines will be available to you from the start so that you can build it into your calendar. Joining distance learning courses can also mean a better choice of subject area that in an ordinary college or university might be oversubscribed. This is especially the case where a university has a particular specialism and is especially difficult to get into.

Apart from the actual ‘distance’ there is often very little difference with courses run from brick built institutions. Examinations and course grading is normally done by continual assessment of assignments and essays that build towards a final grade.

As of this year students at ordinary universities can expect to pay tuition fees approaching in some cases £27,000. Fortunately, these fees are not reflected in distance learning costs because most of the lectures and materials are delivered repetitively in recorded format and not in person (thus saving tuition costs for the institution in question). This doesn’t mean that the quality of the education will be sub-standard; far from it. The Open University in particular has a reputation of high quality teaching that produces top grade graduates that are more than sought after in the job market.

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Technology – Basic Requirements
As a distance learner you will be required to communicate with your tutor and maybe other students (primarily) by email. This might mean an initial investment in some kit, a laptop or pc as well as a decent printer. You’ll also need a reliable internet hook-up for researching on the internet and to send and receive emails.

Distance learning students are also expected to be able to participate in (as individual courses require) video conferencing and be able to upload information in multiple file formats.

Pullout 1: Apart from the actual ‘distance’ there is often very little difference with courses run from brick built institutions.