Mel Pears MBE (pictured) is the Head of Veterans Services at Finchale College. Finchale was established as a recovery and rehabilitation centre for veterans in 1943.
How did you find resettlement?
I enjoyed the resettlement process but like most I engaged at the last possible moment which is the wrong way of getting the best from it. The resettlement service provided is fantastic and you are given two years of notice to engage. However, a soldier commits his life to the Military and believes resettlement can wait. But waiting wastes days, which can never be recovered. Soldiers also need (or must) involve their wives or close family – getting them to help get the most of what’s on offer and become a part of the transition, which will affect everyone.
How would you describe being back on Civvy street?
I had completed nearly 40 years; Soldier to Commanding Officer so I was ready to leave and take up a new challenge. Civvy Street is just that; a new challenge; different people but all working for a living. Certainly not all are as passionate about the job as Soldiers and this can become frustrating and irritating but I’m enjoying it.
What do you miss from the Services?
Getting the job done to a high standard, with little fuss. Close friendships, having confidence and relying on people to pull together; the ‘teamwork’. Military people make decisions, take responsibility and support others regardless of ability, time of day or task at hand, giving total commitment – lacking in some areas of Civvy Street.
How do people react towards you when they find out about your Service?
People tend not to understand Military life and are very weary and stand-offish. Military people tend to be confident and outgoing, sporting and adventurous and have had the chance in their Military lives to visit some incredible places and take part in incredible events. ‘Civvys’ have to save a lot of money, commit time, even perhaps go without to achieve just one major event in their lives. They are interested in all aspects and the dynamics of all parts of Military life. My advice is cover the subject slowly, try not to be too detailed or boast and don’t expect Civvys to understand it, and that includes close family.
Finchale Training College has been supporting Veterans since 1943. Can you tell me more about it?
Finchale was formed to support the wounded injured and sick returning from the Second World War, enabling retraining, education, stability and providing a stepping stone back into society. Finchale has adapted to helping and assisting the disadvantaged, disabled and Veterans on a transitional journey from social isolation with welfare and medical issues into sustained employment and in-work support. 2014-2015 has seen 180 disadvantaged and disabled people access the programmes at Finchale with 250 plus Tri-Service Veterans and families accessing Veteran’s services. We’re proud that veterans still see Finchale as a first class service where everyone is treated as an individual and receives an holistic, bespoke, case-managed service provided by a case worker and an employment coach to help people to reach their goals.
What’s your best advice for somebody leaving the Armed Forces?
Start planning on the day you receive your resettlement notice, involve your family in all of the process; take them along. Use all of your entitlement but research the job opportunities. Make contact with Finchale if you’re in the North East: we will help.