The Property Ladder

Thanks in part to the UK Government’s Help to Buy scheme, 2014 has so far seen significant growth in the UK’s property market, as more people consider moving home. What skills and qualities can Service-leavers bring to the estate agent profession?

By Paul F Cockburn, from Civvy Street #49 (July 2014)

Stuart Richards comes from a Military family; between them, his father, uncles and grandfather have served in all of UK’s Armed Forces and so, on leaving school, it seemed natural for Stuart to follow in their footsteps, as a fitness instructor in the RAF. However, as he came up to his eighth year in uniform, marriage helped change his priorities, and he began looking for other opportunities – ideally in the Midlands, where he hoped to settle.

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Fighting Fit

Do you enjoy and feel proud of being in the excellent physical shape you’re in? Maybe it’s time to convert your passion for exercise into a civilian career. Rising awareness of the impact of diet, work and lifestyle on health is driving rapid growth in the physical training market.

By Julie Gray, from Civvy Street #49 (July 2014)

“Fitness has become hugely popular and new exercise trends are always emerging,” says Head of Training, Lucy Birch, at The Training Room. “For example, Parkour coaching is huge at the moment. It focuses on developing the fundamental attributes required for movement, including balance, strength and endurance, so it’s refreshing for those used to more structured Military drills.”

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Driving Ambition

For those at ease behind the wheel, a career as a professional driver has plenty of opportunities, particularly as a huge shortfall in trained drivers is predicted.

Anyone who has seen the film, Sorcerer, might have second thoughts about driving volatile cargo around for a living, but much like the mismatched heroes that are led by Roy Sheider in the 70s cult classic, many Service-leavers are equipped with the professionalism, grit and calmness under pressure that many haulage contractors require – pressures that are all amplified when you’re transporting high value or even highly unstable loads.

Although grinding up the M6 with a load of groceries might lack the excitement or the raw machismo that is glamorised in the likes of the grizzly-dodging, frozen lake-defying  Ice Road Truckers, driving large goods vehicles (LGVs) in the UK is both a good way of seeing the country and earning a decent wage, with salaries regularly exceeding £30,000.

The sector offers careers well suited to numerous Service-leavers, given the central role of logistics in the Armed Forces and the variety of substantial vehicles they deploy. Moreover, it’s a growth industry – according to the latest government figures, for example, road haulage currently accounts for 68% of all goods moved in the UK compared with 53% in 1980, and there are currently 467,000 van and LGV drivers – making up 2% of Britain’s workforce.

Job description

LGVs are commercial vehicles over 7.5 tonnes and these include rigid trucks, articulated lorries, tankers, transporters and trailer wagons. LGV drivers transport and deliver goods between suppliers and customers all over the UK and overseas, with 12% of the industry currently self-employed.

As well as the driving itself, duties include planning delivery schedules and routes with transport managers, supervising or helping to load and unload goods, making sure loads are safely secured and routine maintenance – such as oil, tyre and brake checks before and after journeys.

Drivers work an average of 42 hours a week and, although overtime may be available, there are strict laws about the amount of hours you can spend driving between rest breaks. Many drivers spend a lot of time away from home, including overnight stays where necessary – although most Service-leavers will be well used to such irregular patterns.

Opportunities

According to a recent report published by Skills for Logistics, in recent years the UK and European transport sector has been suffering from a shortage of skilled professional drivers and the most recent estimates show that nearly 1,456 extra drivers were needed in the UK and nearly 75,000 across Europe.

This trend slowed with the economic downturn mitigating the problem somewhat, but as the economy begins to recover, there is compelling evidence which points to a likely driver shortage:

  • 16% of LGV drivers are 60 or over.
  • The number of individuals taking and passing their LGV test is declining year on year. The last four year period saw a decline of 31% down to 22,700 tests passed in 2010/11.
  • There are substantially more vacancies than candidates seeking a LGV profession and as a result we are seeing wages growing faster for drivers than employees across the economy.
  • There is a sub-optimal uptake of Driver CPC periodic training. It is predicted that there will be a shortfall of 1.7 million training hours or nearly 250,000 seven hour training courses by the end of this year.
  • Currently only 8.2% of professional drivers have received their Driver Qualification Card after completing 35 hours of training.

Most people in the haulage industry start off as drivers for freight distribution companies, major retail chains, supermarkets, raw materials suppliers and manufacturers. On average, LGV Drivers should expect to start earning around £16,000 – £21,500 a year, rising to in excess of £28,000 per year for more experienced LGV drivers.  Those with the specialist qualifications required to drive vehicles carrying dangerous goods and explosives can potentially earn over £40,000.

What’s more there are also possibilities to set up your own business after gaining experience with a haulier or distributor, operating your own vehicle and perhaps eventually building up a fleet. With further training, you may be able to move into distribution or haulage management, transport and logistics planning or a specialised area of driving.

There are substantially more vacancies than candidates seeking a LGV profession.

The sector offers careers well suited to numerous Service-leavers, given the central role of logistics in the Armed Forces and the variety of substantial vehicles they deploy.

Requirements

To become a LGV driver you first need to apply for the correct provisional entitlements on your driving licence and include a medical report. You’ll then need to pass theory and hazard perception tests as well as the practical driving test itself. Moreover – courtesy of an EU Directive in 2009 – a Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) is now required. These can all be gained through courses that last up to three weeks and cover driving skills, basic mechanics, loading and securing loads. The test includes vehicle safety questions, specific manoeuvres such as reversing into a bay, 25 miles of road driving and a theory test based on the Highway Code and LGV regulations.

Perhaps the best place to look for an appropriate training course is on the Joint Approvals Unit for Periodic Training (JAUPT) website – although it primarily lists providers of refresher training for already-qualified LGV drivers, many of these will also offer initial LGV training.

Once you’ve qualified, most employers will then put you on a training programme. This allows the chance to work with more experienced colleagues, who will help to demonstrate the full range of tasks that the job requires – although trained drivers operate solo, there is plenty of interaction with other drivers, especially those from the same company, which is said to foster a sense of camaraderie that many Service-leavers will appreciate.

For further information on instruction providers and job vacancies visit:

www.jobs-in-transport.com

www.careersinlogistics.co.uk

www.jaupt.org.uk

www.careersthatmove.co.uk

999 CAREERS

Forget the nine-to-five; the camaraderie, excitement and ‘rush’ of Military life has a very real equivalent in the UK’s Emergency Services.

John Donoghue joined the Royal Navy after school. Six years later, he transferred to the British Army, rising up the ranks to become a captain. However, when the Cold War began to thaw, he left to join an international security organization — admittedly, that turned out to be more about budgets and spreadsheets than car chases and beautiful ladies between the bed sheets.

So, in the end, he “gave up the company car, expense account and keys to the executive toilets,” and joined the Police. Still a serving police officer today, so many “funny, interesting and bizarre” things happened to him on duty that he felt obliged to write them down. The result has been two (so far) best-selling books: Police, Crime & 999, and its sequel Police, Lies & Alibis.

While it’s relatively unusual for Service-leavers to become popular authors, John is far from alone in having followed the career path into the UK’s emergency services: most obviously these are the nation’s police, firefighters and ambulance crews, but can also include voluntary positions with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and the nation’s numerous Search and Rescue (SAR) teams.

BE PREPARED
The career path is well-trodden thanks to a similarity in skills sets; not least in terms of physical stamina, mental fitness, discipline, and an ability to cope well under stress. In addition, you may have some practical experience of working in SAR or the emergency situations while serving in the Armed Forces.

That said; there isn’t a distinct recruitment programme giving preferential treatment to former members of the Armed Forces; you’ll have to apply to join your local police force, fire or ambulance service (etc) alongside everyone else. However, your time in uniform is likely to have honed a love of every day being different, of meeting and working with a wide range of different people.

The obvious advantage, of course, is that you’ll be able to practise and develop your skills outside of armed conflict, and also with a wider range of people than might have been in the past. Just make sure that, before you leave, you’ve taken full advantage of any resettlement courses (available through the CTP) which might be relevant to your ambitions — even if it’s just about proving your emergency driving skills!

MONEY MATTERS
Police: salaries vary between forces but the typical starting salary for police constables in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is £23,317, rising to£25,962 after initial training. In Scotland the figures are slightly higher, starting at £23,493 and rising to £26,223 after completion of initial training. Typical salaries, after several years’ experience range from: £36,519 to £41,040 for sergeants; £46,788 to £50,751 for inspectors; and £51,789 to £53,919 for chief inspectors.

Firefighters: Under a nationally agreed salary structure for firefighters, trainees start on £21,157. When full competence is achieved, this rises to £28,199. Higher rates apply for overtime. Crew manager salaries range from £29,971 (development) to £31,263 (competent) and watch manager salaries range from £31,940-£34,961. A station manager’s earning potential is between £36,365 and £40,109 plus overtime rates, subject to the officer’s level of competence.

The career path is well-trodden thanks to a similarity in skills sets; not least in terms of physical stamina, mental fitness, discipline, and an ability to cope well under stress.

Ambulance crews: Ambulance care assistants, who drive non-emergency patients to and from hospital admissions and other healthcare appointments, start in Band 1 or 2 (in the NHS Agenda for Change pay structure), earning between £14,294 and £17,425; with experience this can rise to Band 3, £16,271 to £19,268. Emergency care assistants, who drive ambulances under emergency conditions, are also usually in Band 3, although extra allowances may be available for out of hours, shift and overtime working. Paramedics, who are the senior healthcare professional at an accident or emergency scene, begin in Band 5, earning between from £21,478 to £27,901. Senior paramedics (also known as emergency care practitioners) and team leaders will be in Band 6, earning from £25,783 to £34,530.

(Figures sourced from www.prospects.ac.uk and the National Careers Service.)

BANG-BANG
Of course, there’s one obvious difference between serving in the UK’s Armed Forces and its various Emergency Services; in the latter, you won’t have access to any weapons apart from your physical fitness, wits and diplomatic skills. Except for those serving in Northern Ireland, even the vast majority of front-line police officers in the UK carry out their everyday duties unarmed.

Globally speaking, the UK is almost unique in this; only significantly less urban nations such as the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand and Norway have similarly unarmed police forces. This is in part down to tradition; opponents to any change argue that routinely arming police officers would undermine the existing principle of policing by consent — the notion that a police officer’s primary duty is to the British public, rather than the British State.

“When Robert Peel formed the Metropolitan Police there was a very strong (public) fear of the Military,” according to Peter Waddington, Professor of Social Policy at the University of Wolverhampton. “A force that did not routinely carry firearms — and wore blue rather than red, which was associated with the infantry — was part of his effort to distinguish the early ‘Peelers’ from the Army.”

That said; some 5% of officers in England and Wales now belong to specialist firearms units. And, of course, armed police have become a common-enough sight in airports, or outside embassies and at other security-sensitive locations.

One obvious difference between serving in the UK’s Armed Forces and its various Emergency Services; in the latter, you won’t have access to any weapons apart from your physical fitness, wits and diplomatic skills.

However, each Police force in the UK has its own firearms units, consisting of qualified police officers who have completed a minimum of two years ‘on the beat’ before beginning courses conforming to the National Police Firearms Training Curriculum developed by the College of Policing.

In general, significant emphasis is placed on your knowledge of the law, the appropriate and proportional use of force, as well as your general temperament and fitness. Only if you pass those stages will you move on to the practical courses on weapon skills and tactics. Challenging is the word; but then, you like a challenge, don’t you?

Telecoms

The Armed Forces use some of the most sophisticated telecoms equipment available — so what transferable skills can you bring to your civilian career?

In December 2012, an Ariane rocket blasted off from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana. On board was the five-tonne Skynet-5D satellite; to date, it remains the most recent addition to what remains the UK’s single biggest space project — the creation of a communications system which ensures that Britain’s Armed Forces (and, for a reasonable fee, their allies!) can stay connected over most of the planet.

While it would be great to believe people at the MoD chose the name because they were fans of the Terminator movies (in which Skynet is a sentient computer system determined to wipe out humanity), the more prosaic reality is that the first Skynet satellite was launched as far back as 1969 – 15 years before Arnold Schwarzenegger first promised: “I’ll be back.” Presumably, the MoD boffins simply thought it was an apt name to give to a communications network that was hanging in the sky.

The current Skynet system is based around a fifth generation of sophisticated satellites (of which there are now four in orbit); proof that, even if it doesn’t always feel like it on the ground, the MoD has been working pretty close to the cutting edge of such technology for decades. As a result, Service-leavers who have focused on telecommunications during their career, will return to civilian life with some pretty valuable skills.

OPENREACH
For evidence of this, look no further than more than 1,500 Service-leavers from a wide range of backgrounds and various Military trades who, during the last two years, completed three-month long Civilian Work Attachments (CWAs) with communications company Openreach, and were then given interviews for full time positions in the company, out of which more than 90% were successful.

Earlier this year, Openreach, the MoD and CTP announced a new run of these CWAs, the first of which began on 28 April. Participants will receive an EUSR Safety, Health and Environment Awareness Licensing Card (valid for three years), a City & Guilds 6156 Unit 002 Signing Lighting & Guarding (valid for five years) paid for by the company, as well as a Graduation Certificate, and subsequent coaching and guidance to help the Service-leavers when it comes to making the best of their Openreach job interview.

Openreach aren’t doing this just out of the goodness of their hearts; they recognise a good recruitment resource when they see one. Liv Garfield, until recently the CEO of Openreach said, as far back as 2012: “We have had great success in recruiting talented people with Armed Forces experience in the past so we are delighted to be able to offer these roles to people who are set to leave the Forces. Past recruits have brought great enthusiasm and professionalism with them and I have no doubt the new recruits will as well.”

THE FUTURE’S BRIGHT…
Telecommunications really is a 21st century industry; wide-ranging, highly competitive and fast-changing to boot. In fact, developments in communications — such as the internet, broadband and smartphones — mean that the telecoms industry is fast becoming indistinguishable from the IT sector. Proof of this ‘convergence’ can be seen by the increasingly common usage of the term Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

Thanks to the combination of new internet-enabled devices with broadband data networks, ever-higher volumes of multimedia content (sound, text, images, videos, etc) are being shared around the world, with definite consequences when it comes to the skills needed to keep everything running smoothly.

As recently as April, e-skills UK welcomed news that there had been a 12% increase, year-on-year, in the number of students in England studying computer science courses during 2013, with a further 13% increase in applications for 2014. Yet, in itself, it’s still not enough; there’s a looming shortage of suitably skilled ICT workers for the next few years. Opportunities are likely to be good if you have technical knowledge about the systems that underpin the networks and devices which support our increased voice, video and data transmission. Cloud computing has also come into its own of late; it may all work like magic to most people, but that’s only because of the skills and expertise of a lot of highly skilled people like yourself.

The MoD has been working pretty close to the cutting edge of such technology for decades.

SERVICES MANUAL
For the usual operational reasons, each of the UK’s Armed Forces has had its own ‘expert’ telecoms staff in their specialist communications and electronics branches, for years; if this includes you, then you’re in a good position to successfully transfer over into a parallel civilian career, especially if you already have a degree-level qualification and have kept your eyes on the ball through the regular application of additional training and learning..

If you have previously specialised in telecoms and/or electronics as part of your career path, then you’ll still have some very transferable and marketable skills, although you may need to complete some additional courses to widen your knowledge beyond particular specialisms. For example, you might wish to brush up on your knowledge of fibre optic cabling systems, or indeed the protocols for streaming data through them — and being able to bandy around terms like ‘Synchronous Digital Hierarchy’ with actual understanding.

If you don’t already have the necessary technical background, you can still enter the ICT sector, albeit at a lower level. Nevertheless, your Military training will mean you have some skills many of your civilian peers are likely to lack, especially when it comes to working out in the field – such as map reading, first aid and even just previous experience of working safely high above the ground.

There’s a looming shortage of suitably skilled ICT workers for the next few years.

CTP offers a wide range of appropriate training courses covering the ICT sector, but it’s worth chatting with people (especially former Service-leavers) who are already successfully established in the industry, as they’ll be in a good position to suggest the kind of knowledge and skills needed by the sector and the most appropriate courses and qualifications that will get you to the front of the line.

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e-skills UK
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www.e-skills.com