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.

Boxout 2
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.

Franchising Special.

Starting a business is fraught with risk. Franchising is a superb way to lower that risk and increase your chances of success; Civvy Street spoke with Chairman of the British Franchising Association, Michael Eyre to find out how.

Michael Eyre has 30 years experience of franchising under his belt. During this time he’s developed a keen eye for the skills and qualities that add up to an effective franchisee. Top of the list, according to Michael is: “Undoubtedly, a genuine desire to work for one’s self. I say that because many people considering franchising think that they’re buying themselves a job.” He says, before wisely adding: “Particularly in times like this when employment is uncertain and redundancies are rife. They’re not. There’s added value in taking on a franchise. Whilst you’re working for yourself, you’re not by yourself. It’s like a midway point.”

Michael has been both franchisee and a franchisor. His first experience as a franchisee was in specialist car servicing, a line of business that he had no previous experience in. Michael admits: “With the support of my franchisor I was able to operate an extremely successful business which I clearly couldn’t have done on my own.”

Training to franchise
Even though the franchisee is preparing to put in a significant investment, it’s essential that the franchisor feels confident that the individual is the right person to carry the brand. Michael explains: “First of all they have to identify the skill level and the experience level of a new franchisee. In our instance we look at training in two different aspects: firstly, there’s training on the general skills and requirements for running a business (compliance with legislation, health and safety matters, employment law, skills specific to VAT and inland revenue – all of those sorts of things will apply to any business).”

The other area of training refers to the particular business type of the franchisor. “We treat those two things separately. We look at the existing franchisor business and how that franchisee might fit in. You need to do an assessment to find out what skills are required to perform the required duties. Where the skills aren’t in place, those are the skills you’ve got to teach.” Far from being seen as a hurdle by the new franchisee, this assessment should be viewed as a foundation with further support being the tools for success.

Of course ex-Servicepeople may not have specific ‘business’ training and the road to day one might necessarily be slightly longer. All of this will bear dividends. Michael agrees saying: “The pre-opening training is of critical importance, even more so perhaps than some of the hands on stuff. It’s during the pre-opening training that the franchisor has the opportunity to make a greater assessment of the franchisee and what support they’ll need. You can’t just walk into it without forethought.”

Franchise opportunities
There are literally hundreds of franchise opportunities to select from, spread over every conceivable business type. With such a choice, the right selection might seem like a difficult task. There are approximately 800 franchisor companies in the UK with around half being members of the BFA. “The only reason why only half are BFA members is because the other half can’t get in,” quips Michael, adding, “The BFA is a standards based organisation and in order for a franchisor to become a member they have to go through a very thorough accreditation process. Part of that is to see what support measures are in place in that particular franchise network. If a potential franchisee is going to select a member of the BFA to work with they can be sure that a certain level of standards already exists.” This provides an ideal starting point for potential franchisees that are concerned about the safety of their investment.

“They look more than anything for a track record of achievement in franchising; clear evidence that the franchise network is robust and that the franchisees are performing in line with expectations” says Michael. In fact, it’s also true that the BFA speaks with a number of franchisees to make sure that they are getting what should be delivered and getting a view from the real cutting edge.

What emerges through our discussion might seem surprising to some potential franchisees. The franchisor and franchisee are far from ‘employer and employee’ and much more like a team with each requiring input from the other. Indeed, Michael is quick to underline the significance of this point saying: “In my organisation, we have a very popular phrase: ‘commitment matching’. If we have a franchisee that’s keen to develop his business and is putting in the effort in the right places; business building activities and doing the other things that we recommend that he does. If he makes that commitment we will match it and support him. On the other hand, a whinger who complains about the state of his business but isn’t doing the things that we recommend isn’t showing any commitment.”
Positive statistics
Any franchisee will tell you that franchising isn’t easy but it certainly is, statistically at least, a safer route into business. According to Michael the survival rates for start-up businesses in the UK are as low as 20% after two years. Incredibly, in 80% of cases, franchisees survive the same period. “It’s a fantastic record; that’s why franchising is recognised as the safest route into business for anybody at any level.”

Even with all of this good news to feed on, some potential investors may still be biting their fingernails. Again Michael draws on his own experiences as a franchisee saying: “Good advice for a potential franchisee who, whether they admit it or not, will be thinking: ‘Can I do this job?’ is for them to ask their franchisor for a job description outlining particular responsibilities and what have you (in the way of skills and experience). This allows them to make a very honest assessment of themselves. They’ll find that extremely useful.”

Michael summarises: “They’re buying a business to develop and eventually capitalise on their investment, they’ve got something to sell on to somebody else. That brings it home that they’re building a business. Without that goal, it is nothing more than having a job.”

Saying that, it isn’t a sink or swim situation as Michael reminds me: “By having a franchisor you do have a responsibility to somebody. So even though it was my business and I put all the money into it, under the terms of my franchise agreement I had to report to the franchisor which is a good discipline. That makes sure that you monitor and manage your business effectively. It’s your own business but you’re not on your own (but) the incentive is stronger to work harder. It’s a fact of life.”

Hed: Case Study: Belvoir Lettings.

Mike Goddard spent 17 years in the RAF and was commissioned into the education branch. During that time he rose to the rank of Wing Commander. He has since become a successful franchise owner and runs the Belvoir Lettings chain and explains why he’s always on the lookout for ex-Servicepeople.

Mike Goddard left the RAF in 1995 on the redundancy scheme that was then in place. He took advantage of the offer, using it to fund his new business. “We didn’t have any intention of franchising to start with. After about 12 months I started to get ambitions to grow my business nationally” he explains.

This is when Mike started to consider franchising as an option. “I went to a franchising consultant who did a feasibility study on my then business and he said that if I had the right investment and followed his guidelines there would be every chance of succeeding. In 1996 I used the majority of my redundancy pay to set up a company called Belvoir Property Management UK Ltd and launched my franchising operation; the pilot project being my original business.”

Starting out ion franchising
Mike was joined by his wife in the business and whilst she ran the lettings business, he concentrated on the franchising side. “It took six months for us to prepare it and in June 1996 I attracted my first franchisee – an ex Corporal from Lossiemouth, Scotland who opened an office in Elgin.” Says Mike, adding proudly: “He’s still with us and celebrated his 15th anniversary recently.”

Mike sidestepped the ‘franchisee’ aspect of business and jumped straight from being an entrepreneur to a franchisor. Being an ex Forces man, he can see not only what his military background gave him but also the key attributes it gives to potential franchisees, saying: “My military career taught me two very important things, firstly: how to build up teams of people and secondly: how to systematically break down a complex task into its simplest components to achieve a major goal. That’s what you do with franchising.”

The qualities that Mike identified in potential franchisees meant that it was a no-brainer to fall back on his view of what military experience really means. “I did look for people with a military background because I could relate to them and they could relate to me. When you’re starting a franchise network one of the problems is getting those first few franchisees. It’s so important to get it right. I knew the sorts of people I’d be getting” he says, adding: “I target anybody who has the right attitude (but ex Servicepeople have a head start). They’ve learnt how to follow systems, they are usually financially stable which is also important and they are generally trustworthy and have integrity. Those are key things for being good franchisees.”

Running the business
Although Mike has never been a franchisee, his insight is welcome from the perspective of understanding what the required qualities and standards are. His advice to any franchisee is simple: ‘Go for it.’ If you analyse it too much we call it ‘paralysis by analysis.’ Go with your gut feeling. The opportunities are superb. If you feel that you want to run a business and control your own destiny and want to work for yourself rather than for an employer but are slightly concerned about going it alone, then franchising is a fantastic opportunity.”

Although the move is a big one, the formula is simple: “If you follow the advice and the business format that they set you, then you have a very high chance of succeeding” encourages Mike, continuing: “Go and meet a few franchisors like me and they’ll tell you. A ‘glass is half full’ type of person will be able to withstand the knocks and blows of the early days of the business. My advice for anyone with that type of attitude is to give franchising a serious thought. It’s a very good way of getting into business using somebody else’s brand and know-how.”


Does the freedom of the road make driving an appealing career choice back in civvy street? We speak with SMW Training about the qualifications you need.

SMW training has been in business for little more than two and a half years but its two founders have, between them, more than 35 years training in the transport sector, according to director Howard Moore.

“We’re involved very much in transport training – all aspects of LGV from licence acquisition, to delivery of the new CPC qualification that all drivers need to have,” he explains. “We cover subjects such as drivers’ hours, tachographs, digital and analogue, covering the legal side of things – to name but a few as far as LGVs are concerned.”

Although based in Shropshire and mid-Wales (hence the company’s name), the company has access to personnel and facilities elsewhere, so are probably closer to you than you might think.

If you don’t already have a large goods vehicle licence (LGV) category C1 or above, Howard suggests that training and tests with them could be “all sewn up within four weeks at a push, depending on test dates that we’re given by the driving standards agency”. career wise, once you have an LGV (C), you can either settle with that or take an additional few days to extend your driving skills by earning an LGV (C+E) licence.

Since autumn 2009, all new professional lgv drivers must have a driver’s certificate of professional competence (CPC), a system which will eventually ensure that all lorry drivers take 35 hours retraining every five years.

Howard believes the CPC is good for the industry. “That’s my gut feeling,” he says. “The fact that drivers have to undergo some sort of retraining can only be a positive thing to keep them at the cutting edge of a professional career”

For Service leavers, SMW training can also help with training to become an LGV instructor or assessor, opening up career opportunities either as a freelance or within existing transport companies. “We train assessors and instructors,” he insists, “and there are a lot of ex-Forces people involved in that area.”

MORE: 0800 298 5346,

There are two main large goods vehicle (lgv) licences:
• LGV (C): vehicles more than 7,500 kg, – known as ‘rigids’
• LGV (C+E): vehicles more than 7,500 kg with a trailer – or Drawbar (the cab of an articulated lorry can disconnect from the trailer).

To apply for these licences you will need to already possess a current clean B licence.

Training can be accessed through a range of CTP-approved training companies. Freight transport vocational qualifications are also available as both National and Scottish Vocational Qualifications, and through apprenticeship schemes.

Since 10 September 2009, all new LGV (C) and (C+E) licence holders must also hold a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (Driver CPC) in order to work professionally. This EU-inspired qualification must be renewed every five years at an approved training centre. It is designed to improve the knowledge and skills of professional LGV (and also Passenger Carrying Vehicle) drivers throughout their working lives.

CTP regularly runs seven-day Driver CPC/ADR courses (an ADR licence entitles you to transport dangerous goods) at its Resettlement Training Centres at Catterick and Cottesmore.

CPC involves 2.5 hours of theory testing and 30 minutes of practical testing in addition to the time spent on LGV licence theory and practical tests. Driver CPC has been benchmarked at NVQ level 2

To earn your LGV (C) or (C+E) with Driver CPC, you will have to complete the following;
Theory test:
Module 1a: licence acquisition – 100 multiple choice questions;
Module 1b: licence acquisition – 19 hazard perception clips;
Module 2: initial driver CPC – three to six case studies;

Practical test:
Module 3: licence acquisition – 1.5 hours of on-road practical testing;
Module 4: initial driver CPC – 0.5 hours practical safety demonstration test, using a suitable test vehicle.