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Conference Q&A: Day 1 Session 2 Employment

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    Our speakers were not able to answer all the questions put to them during the conference due to time constraints, so they have given us their answers in writing. We will add extra responses to questions through time.

    Do you think there should be more funding available for spouses to undertake education so that they are able to more effectively compete in the job market? Degree courses are prohibitively expensive for many service families and spouses may benefit greatly from further education opportunities to enhance their employability. If a spouse is able to spend the time whilst the serving person is employed gaining further qualifications, there would be a greater chance for them to have a career path that can carry the family through the transition period which therefore places less pressure on the service person with regards to employment upon leaving the service.

    Chloe MacKay: Degree courses are expensive and a significant time commitment. From our work with veterans and our RFEA Families Programme, we understand that service families are far more resilient when there is a second income and this can help during transition. Military partners who want a career path to support their family and their spouse through transition should aim to train for their chosen career and gain employment experience, which will be valued by employers. It is worth getting in touch with one of the families’ employability programmes to find out what funding for training may be available now.

    Does anyone know if the service charities would consider merging branding and services to make it simpler for veterans seeking support?

    Chloe MacKay: Charities do consider merging branding and services to make it simpler for veterans seeking support. The big initiative from the past 5 years was the Veterans Gateway which continues to provide a single point of access for veterans to access the support that meets their needs. There is extensive use of referrals by military charities to other organisations within the military charity sector, and beyond, who are best placed to meet each need, so veterans are able to find the support they need when the approach one charity. There is a joined-up system to mean that charities share financial grant giving with more than one charity contributing to each grant.

    All the charities have slightly different focus, but they all seek money and from business perspective we get inundated for requests for money. Is there any thought from the panel/ COBSEO of looking at merging at least some of the charities?

    Chloe MacKay: Military charities do consider merging. As with general charities and businesses, mergers are complex and take time to achieve. Mergers also do not always yield benefits over and above what is achieved by separate organisations delivering different specialist services. This will continue to be a live issue and discussion within the whole charity sector over the next few years.

    Would including employment element of the covenant in the armed forces bill help at all?

    Chloe MacKay: Yes, it could activate some employers to do more to enable their organisations to successfully employ more veterans.

    Totally agree that Service Leavers should start planning their transition much earlier. But how can we incentivise the single Services to enable this – against their other operational priorities?

    Matt Fossey: I agree this is a challenge. However, the 4 Rs of Recruitment, Retention, Reenlistment and Reputation are central here. MOD and single Services will need to do some work to understand the impact of developing SPs whole life career trajectory and the impact of this on the 4 Rs. Arguably if we were able to measure service satisfaction or wellbeing better, throughout service and transition (an ambition of JSP100) and look at this in conjunction with HR data we should be able to go a long way to understand 4 R impact. This should in turn incentivise single Services as they will see the broad benefit.

    Really great to hear all of the fantastic work and collaboration, really great presentations thank you. However, it feels that much of this is very practical based and I wonder if there is provision and support for the identity and existential aspect/experience of the transition experience broadly and specifically into civilian employment?

    Matt Fossey: Yes, there is research on veteran identity (see Rachel Woodward, Newcastle) and reverse culture shock (Beverly Bergman, Glasgow) and the VFI group have considered a sociological approach to transition of various types of capital (Cooper, Caddick et al) – all of these papers should be available on the VFRHub.

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