National Charity’s Recruitment Campaign Backed By Top Political, NHS and Military Figures

A special parliamentary reception was held by a national military charity this week that attracted support from key political, health figures and military figures, who pledged to ensure that veterans in the UK should not have to battle blindness alone.

On Tuesday 2 September, Shadow Defence Minister Gemma Doyle MP, Simon Kirby MP and Martin Horwood MP co-hosted an event on behalf of Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision impaired veterans, to highlight the need to reach more vision impaired ex-Service men and women who are not currently being referred to the charity for support

Blind Veterans UK provides free, lifelong support to veterans experiencing severe sight loss. It doesn’t matter how or when a veteran lost their sight, or when they served, Blind Veterans UK provides specialist services and support to ensure that they can rediscover a life after sight loss.

Over 30 MPs attended the event, including Dr Daniel Poulter, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, Vernon Coaker, Shadow Defence Secretary, and Sir Bob Russell MP, who joined key representatives from the NHS and related charities, to meet a number of Blind Veterans UK beneficiaries and back the charity’s campaign.

The event also received support from its senior military ambassadors, including Vice- Patron General The Lord Richards of Herstmonceux GCB CBE DSO, Admiral Sir Jonathon Band GCB DL, Air Chief Marshal Sir Joe French KCB CBE, Captain Michael Gordon Lennox OBE, and Air Vice Marshal Paul Luker CB OBE AFC DL, Chairman Tim Davis and President Raymond Hazan OBE.

Speaking at the event, Shadow Defence Minister Gemma Doyle MP said: “Blind Veterans UK provides vital support to our Armed Forces community, and by being at this event, we are recognising the excellent work that the charity does to make sure that blind veterans are able to adjust to life with sight loss. I am pleased to pledge my support to veterans across the UK.”

The event also saw the launch of Blind Veterans UK’s ‘Living the Pledge’ report which set out the current difficulties faced by the veterans’ community, and called on MP’s, local authorities and NHS healthcare professionals to improve referral pathways to the charity so that veterans are signposted to support as a matter of course, once they are diagnosed with severe sight loss. Blind Veterans UK’s No One Alone campaign estimates that there are currently more than 68,000 veterans with vision impairment in the UK, who are not aware of the free support available to them.

General The Lord Richards of Herstmonceux said “I’m extremely proud to be a Vice Patron of Blind Veterans UK which does outstanding work supporting vision impaired ex-Service men and women. This event is crucial in helping us spread the word about Blind Veterans UK’s vital work. We want every MP, health networks and local authorities in the UK to consider what can be done to improve the way veterans are referred to the charity, so that we can ensure every vision impaired veteran gets the support they need and deserve.”

Invictus Games

The innovative Invictus Games creates more champions for Great Britain as they rock Olympic Park.

Invictus has been hailed a huge success. Civvy Street Magazine took the opportunity to visit the Copperbox Arena in Queen Elizabeth Park, London to take it in.

The inaugural Games have certainly caught the imagination of the public with crowds forming early in the day to watch the sport. New venue, Here East, hosted the archery competition and saw queues of people snaking down the side of the building waiting to get in to watch our wounded ex-Servicepeople taking on the best of their peers from the other 12 competing nations.

The archery, was of course, a highly intense competition, staged in a hushed Here East centre. The spectators were sat in darkness with only the archers and the targets bathed in light. It made for a quietly dramatic scene for the shoot outs.

In stark contrast the Copperbox Arena was hosting the wheelchair rugby just down the road. Since the 2012 Paralympics the Copperbox Arena has been affectionately known as the ‘box that rocks’ and that was no more true than on Friday when Civvy Street Magazine watched the action.

The game of wheelchair rugby also, you may realise, has an affectionate nickname – ‘Murderball’. This might strike fear into lesser mortals than those that have faced the extremes of frontline aggression. To the British Armed Forces it’s about doing what they do best: applying the correct pressure and strategy at precisely the right moments.

It’s certainly worth noting that whilst this is still a game of big hits and plenty of what might be called by commentators, ‘argey-bargey’ that the sport has certainly developed since I first saw it in 2012, during the London Games. The British team seemed to prey on any defender that wasn’t in their proper place, throwing some sublime passes and making clever moves that simply unlocked their opposition, leaving the goal area wide open.

In some senses it made the hits, that are often shockingly (for traditional rugby union fans) ‘off the ball’, more juddering to witness. This said, even this aspect of the game has become far more scientific and it’s clear that technique has been studied and practised on the training court time and again.

So the game has suddenly found finesse, and great ball handling skills have become the essence of a top side; probably a good thing given that we were in the company of HRH Prince Harry and his chum, Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. The Mayor spoke at half time during the rugby to congratulate the Prince on the undertaking and again to assert his fondness for the way that the Capital embraces disability sport, saying: “London always puts on a fantastic display of the human spirit.”

This is one of the many reasons why the Invictus Games are here to stay. After rave reviews and plenty of televsion coverage, wounded members of our Armed Forces will never be looked at in the same way again. Whilst there was no love lost on court today, there was plenty of respect gained.

Project Management

Orginisation steps in a project illustrated over an image

Project management is a natural option for many Service-leavers, although experience gained in the Forces should be backed up by qualifications for those who want to make it to the top.

Project managers plan and organise resources and people to make sure projects finish on time, stay within budget and meet the requirements of the business. They are needed in tasks as varied as the development of software for an improved business process, the construction of a building or bridge, the relief effort after a natural disaster, or the expansion of sales into a new geographic market. Their role has always been practiced informally, but began to emerge as a distinct profession in the mid-twentieth century, and is now a booming global industry – employing 158,000 people in the UK alone – in which recognised qualifications can be achieved.

A project manager will help define the goals and objectives of the project, determine when the various project components are to be completed and by whom, and create quality control checks to ensure that completed components meet a certain standard.

The average income in the industry is almost £36,000, and you could be employed directly by a company, or by a firm of project management consultants. Freelance contracts for the duration of a project are also common and almost 20% of project managers are self-employed – a popular option for those who prefer flexibility to stability.


Skills required

Such a role requires a number of distinctive skills and prime candidates must be good at juggling several tasks at the same time, have excellent people skills and the ability to lead a team. Service-leavers – especially those who have served as officers and NCOs – bring plenty of this experience to civilian life, so it’s little wonder that the Armed Forces form a rich source of recruits for the project management industry.

One former Army officer who now excels in project management is Brigadier Ian Townsend, Secretary General of the Royal British Legion since 1997. Made a fellow of Chartered Management Institute (CMI) during his time in the Army, he feels that Service-leavers are well suited to managerial roles.

“My experience in management is that one has to have a feel for the strengths and weaknesses of an organisation or group and then set about organising to achieve your aims. In Civvy Street, as in the Services, you have to lead by creating a team spirit. Running a charity is not unlike running a business. In fact I regard running a major charity very much as a business. We have to run on business lines. In the charities world things just take a little longer! The key is to develop a team who may be better than you,” he reflects.

This natural alliance between the Military and the domestic is reflected by the number of former Service personnel in the industry – and a number of the leading project management bodies are even actively seeking to train and recruit Service-leavers.



Obtaining your PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) certificate is often the best way into the industry, as it is the standard developed and used extensively by the UK government. Widely recognised and used in the private sector, both in the UK and internationally, it embodies established and proven best practice in project management.

Consisting of three levels of qualification – Foundation, Practitioner, and Professional – the exams can be sat at the end of a training course, or after private study then booking the exam without a training course via one of the PRINCE2 Examination Institutes.

Those keen to continue their professional development can be helped by further professional qualifications, such as those offered by bodies such as the Association of Project Management (APM), the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), some of which can be taken while still in the Services.

CMI claims to offer management and leadership “qualifications of choice” for those leaving the Armed Forces and the institute works with the Forces to provide career enhancing qualifications in the areas of management and leadership that support your skills pathway.

Qualifications offered by CMI are actually designed in partnership with the Army and in consideration of what civilian employers are looking for and those still in the Forces can apply for funding through the Army skills offer.

The highest qualification available is that of Chartered Manager – a goal suited to personnel holding positions that enable them to demonstrate ‘impact’ and adding value. Eligibility for becoming a Chartered Manager is not rank dependent – however, it tends to have greater relevance to appointments that involve elements of strategic management.


Case study

Gunner Tony Clare served in the RA for nine years, leaving in 2000 on a medical discharge. In an interview with www.questonline, when asked about training/experience gained during his Service career that he has found useful since, he listed “confidence, discipline, sense of humour, openness, integrity and hard-working ethic”.

During resettlement, he undertook City & Guilds 3466 with CNet Training in Bury St Edmunds, a course he praises as “very well run and useful”. He also found his first job, as a data engineer, through a work placement thanks to CNet Training.

He is now working as a project manager at NG Bailey’s IT Services division, a role he has been in for around eight years and much enjoys. “I project manage large IT installations,” he explains, “these cover all elements of a fully networked building from external WAN services coming in to LAN systems within the building (eg utilising a full Cisco environment); structured cabling systems, using copper and fibre networks; CCTV, access control, security systems, mobile phone connectivity and satellite systems. The list is quite extensive. We do installations from data centres through dealer banks, to general offices, to rail networks. I love my job!”

Asked to highlight the major differences between his Service role and current job, he continues: “The main differences between Military and civvy life are the levels of responsibility, completely different work ethic in staff, discipline, time-keeping and employment rights. For example, you can tell a soldier at 4:30pm on a Friday that he’s working the weekend, but, with civvies, it’s a very different can of worms indeed, so a substantive learning period and steep learning curve is required for those Service-leavers who joined the Forces straight from school, or at a younger age and with little or no civilian work experience.”


Further information


Project Management Institute (PMI)

Tel: 020 8751 5626

Chartered Management Institute (CMI)

Tel: 020 7497 0496

The Association of Project Management (APM)

Aberdeen – A Solid City

The ‘Granite City’ in the North East of Scotland is the place for Service-leavers to relocate if they’re serious about a career in oil and gas. Civvy Street explores the reasons why.


Aberdeen is the energy capital of Europe. Access, through Aberdeen, to the oil fields of the North Sea means that it’s a place of real importance within the British economy. The afterglow of this influence also means that it’s a very comfortable place for Service-leavers to relocate to.


The UK has benefitted from the abundance of oil and gas from the North Sea since the mid 1960’s but things really started to step up during the next decade and it is said that since the mid 1970’s around 40 billion barrels of oil have been extracted from the UK Continental Shelf. Around 450,000 people across the UK are employed in the oil and gas industry and that it’s worth £6.5bn in tax to the Government annually. Although the 450,000 don’t all live in Aberdeen, it remains the first city of the UK’s energy industry and hugely important to the whole country.


Reliance on energy

It goes without saying that our reliance on energy means that the North Sea is a cornerstone to our way of life; so-much-so that if there wasn’t a future in North Sea energy extraction, we would have to invent it. In some senses this is exactly what is happening at the moment.


Oil and gas are finite resources and they will run out. The challenge is twofold for the energy industry in that it firstly needs to make sure that current extraction is effective and efficient and that it will ensure that our return from the North Sea is maximised, but it also needs to find new ways of meeting future energy needs. In either case, because the energy companies are rooted firmly in Aberdeen, the future of the city as a working hub seems assured. I should also point out that the natural resources aren’t likely to dry up any time this week, so no need to fill the car up just yet.


Aberdeen’s location by the North Sea means that more projects based around renewable energy sources such as wind and wave power, as well as new forms of extraction that were previously unfeasible, are likely to be based there. An example of this is extracting ‘subsea oil’ that was literally out of reach in the deeper water environments of the North Sea until now, when we are able to use more advanced technology to find and harvest it.


Further exploration and opportunity

The appetite for exploration and extraction in the North Sea through Aberdeen shows no real sign of diminishing with the likes of Shell recently reaffirming its commitment, saying that it will invest about $2bn a year in the region over the next few years, particularly in big projects like Clair and Schiehallion, two big oil fields west of Shetland that are operated by BP. Recoverable oil reserves of Schiehallion are estimated to be between 450 to 600 million barrels, so it’s probably worth their while and is a great example of how vibrant the industry is.


Of course, that only outlines the activities of two of the companies involved in North Sea extraction. Keep in mind that there are around 1,000 companies based in the oil and gas industry in Aberdeen and you get some idea of the scale of interest involved. The BBC reported recently that some estimates indicate that there are around 24 billion barrels of North Sea oil waiting to be extracted. Naturally, where there’s such untapped wealth, there’s plenty of scope for employment, and it seems a certainty that the energy sector will provide the lion’s share of the city’s career opportunities and prestige in the foreseeable future.


Service-leavers thinking of relocating to Aberdeen in order to build a new career in oil and gas need not have worries on that score. Although Aberdeen is often described in terms of its connection with primary industry and natural resources it certainly isn’t some kind of lawless frontier ‘gold rush’ town with the sort of here today, gambled away tomorrow economy you might envisage. For one thing, the granite with which the city is proudly built is a very permanent statement of power that pre-dates the energy sector by a century – no, Aberdeen is certainly here to stay.


Comfortable lifestyle

Furthermore, the kind of lifestyle that Service-leavers can expect is renowned as being comfortable, if not ‘gentrified’. Aberdeen is Scotland’s third most populous city and has to be one of the most cosmopolitan in the whole of the UK – not least because of the international draw for energy companies. It has quietly collected plenty of accolades over the years as being a great place to live and work as well as to the general happiness of its residents. Perhaps underlining levels of satisfaction is that Aberdeen has one of the lowest crime rates of any city in the UK and is a very safe place to live. In fact it seems that the only jeopardy or risk is faced by those that choose to work off-shore, using Aberdeen as a base.


Perhaps, as a result of the inherent energy industry, Aberdeen can be regarded as an ‘expensive city’ although the higher than average wages mean that it works out at quite a comfortable rate. In fact, the average wage in Aberdeen is three times that found in Manchester or Birmingham.


Curiously, during the recession, whilst other cities didn’t fare well, Aberdeen appeared to show immunity to the economic downturn. The energy sector is, after all, a constant player that cannot be substituted. Perhaps that’s why Aberdeen’s Union Street has become one of the UK’s premier shopping destinations and home to more than a few prestigious brands with plenty more choice found within the three shopping malls located within the immediate vicinity.


Living well

With all that hustle and bustle there needs to be some kind of relaxation valve. Indeed, a short distance out of the city you’ll find beautiful Scottish countryside and the boyish pleasure derived from admiring the castle – and the rather more refined (and adult) pleasure derived from following the whisky trails.


From a practical perspective Aberdeen also offers excellent infrastructure, including regular train services to Glasgow and Edinburgh, with Aberdeen International Airport just 15 minutes outside of the city centre. The Aberdeen Royal Infirmary is NHS Grampian’s largest hospital and is supported by specialist paediatrics and maternity hospitals.


Aberdeen also hosts a good range of educational facilities from nurseries right through to the two excellent universities: Scotland’s third oldest, Aberdeen University and Robert Gordon University, renowned for being a modern and dynamic institution.


Yes or no?

The big issue on the horizon for people considering a move to Aberdeen might well be Scottish independence (with the vote taking place later this month) and what that would mean to the oil and gas industry. The fact is that a ‘yes’ vote (for independence) would in some small way affect everyone in the UK and whilst Shell’s Chief Executive, Ben van Beurden has said that “Shell would prefer it if Scotland remained part of the UK” it isn’t for fear of some kind of armed stand-off or situation where the English would try to siphon off the black gold under cover of night; it’s more that any disruption due to transition wouldn’t be good for business, but then, when you’re making around £4.5billion per quarter, how bad can it be?

Start Me Up

The British Armed Forces relies on its vehicles to transport supplies and personnel, sometimes in hostile locations. Crumbling desert roadways or even pounding miles of motorway take their tolls on vehicles but it’s vitally important to literally ‘keep the show on the road’.

You might well have been involved with vehicle maintenance during your Service career and have an idea that these are the skills that you’ll use once you’ve resettled, to earn a living. Whilst it’s unlikely that you’ll see the extreme conditions back home that you witnessed on active Service, come winter, when the pot holes become that bit deeper they’ll be plenty of miffed drivers up and down Blighty with tracking and wheel balancing issues looking for help in getting their cars fully roadworthy again.


According to a news website for automotive technicians, the amount of independent garages and workshops has decreased over recent years and the trend looks set to continue. This drop may be down to several things but is probably mostly due to customers using brand accredited garages or those attached to the dealerships (to keep their car’s service history looking svelte). As well as that, cars continue to be more reliable year-on-year and it’s likely that an annual service is all that a motor of a certain age will require.


Keeping up appearances

Even though we are keeping our cars longer instead of replacing them, due to the uncertain economic climate, the things that we perceive as important are changing. We still have resale values on our minds though and we seem to be becoming increasingly obsessed with the cosmetic state of our cars.


The other trend that is perhaps taking its toll is the way that we select the people to work on our vehicles. Mechanics have always, along with most other trades people, had a reputation of stacking the bill and shifting the job out of the door as fast as possible. In other words, the perception of value for money amongst mechanics is difficult to build and this has a detrimental effect on business appeal. People are looking for peer reviewed success stories or word of mouth reputation and whilst you might have an excellent attitude to your work, those first few months of business could be very precarious until your name is established as a quality supplier of service – and that’s the toughest part of setting up in business.


This doesn’t mean that your experiences in turning semi-wrecks back out to dutiful service have been wasted but it might mean that you rethink what your idea of the term ‘car maintenance’ means. Instead of being up to your elbows in grease, you’re now more likely to be in cleaner overalls and pursuing cosmetic perfection rather than working on gearboxes or radiators.


Cosmetic concerns

Cars still tend to be amongst peoples’ most highly valued possessions and there does seem to be a real trend in keeping them not just roadworthy but looking their best as well. You might call it vanity but others will call it a business opportunity too god to miss. Nobody is really going to be seriously inconvenienced by a paintwork chip, small dent on the wing or scratch on the alloys but it does seem that the amount of businesses based on these small cosmetic concerns is rising.


There may yet be another way then to get your motor maintenance ambitions off the ground, although it might not be exactly as you’d originally imagined. Any business owner will tell you that the most difficult thing to do is get up to speed in the initial weeks. A lack of profile and reputation means that people aren’t familiar with the business and in the case of motor maintenance in particular, this isn’t much good. Remember that in order to do your job, the client is literally handing over the keys to their pride and joy – this takes an element of trust.


The solution is one that gives you not only instant recognition but also puts your clients’ minds at rest. Franchising provides a well known brand as well as a template of service so that the client feels comfortable and has a realistic set of expectations that the franchisor will train you to deliver.


Customer expectations

People will still expect everything that they would of an independent and perhaps again, it’s the franchises or ‘chains’ that are driving them out of business since the customer knows exactly what they’re paying for (and feels that they have a more confident path to recourse if they don’t get it). Of course expectations include efficiency and a professional job from start to finish and more and more will expect you to be convenient and mobile. Gone are the days when the customer dropped their car of for cosmetic work like scratch removals or even, for that matter, slightly more serious stuff like repairing a windscreen. Basically if the operation does not require a pit or lift you could be expected to do it anywhere from the customer’s drive to the car park at their office or whilst they’re working out in the gym.


This mobile approach actually has several benefits. The fact is you’ll probably work from a van anyway so going to different places within what is likely to be an exclusive territory, won’t be a problem. It means that all of your kit is together and to hand during any job but it also means lower overheads than running a premises.


Secondly, whilst you’re doing the job, you’ll be effectively advertising your business. Your van is likely to carry a huge livery logo on it with a handy telephone or website neatly painted underneath. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, this is a chance for you to drum up custom; not through handing out leaflets on the spot but by doing what you do best: getting the job done. Get your head down, do a neat job and 30 minutes later you’ll have driven off. Of course, during those 30 precious minutes of ‘air time’ you might well have reminded several other people working in the office overlooking the car park that actually, their cars could do with a buff and so on. If you get the right job in the right car park, you might be sitting on a rich vein of business over the next few weeks. So do the business, but look the business too.


Depending on the brand you choose to franchise with, the package might include an exclusive (new) territory, van (including tools), uniform, marketing support as well as training and advice referring to the actual job and to running the business. Service-leavers are traditionally well regarded by franchisors not just because they can use their lump sum to cover start-up fees but also because they’re excellent at following the franchise formula. The last thing that a franchise needs is of course, for their brand name to be soiled by a poor franchisee.


It’s well worth doing your homework on any business you are considering investing in. Organisations such as the British Franchise Association can help you find reputable and established investment opportunities whilst there are advisory organisations all over the UK that can advise you should you still wish to start your own business up independently.





(England) National Enterprise Network


(Scotland) Business Gateway


(Northern Ireland) NI Business Info


(Wales) Business Wales


British Franchise Association