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Writing exclusively for Fresh Business Thinking is Stuart Tootal, Chief Security Officer at Barclays and Head of the Armed Forces Transition, Employment & Resettlement (AFTER) Programme.

Figures from the Office of National Statics (ONS) reveal that the UK’s productivity has slowed down for the first time since 2015. One of the crucial ways that businesses can protect their performance is to employ a skilled workforce that increases individual labour productivity. Across the country, however, evidence shows that some employers are struggling to find the skilled recruits that will reinforce their workforce and ultimately shield their business.

Despite the government actively pursuing policies to help bolster the capabilities of the UK workforce, the proportion of skilled workers is set to lag behind demand in the foreseeable future. Yet over the next five years, 85,000 job-seekers, who are not only highly skilled but expertly trained, will enter the civilian job market. This talented pool – equivalent to the number of people currently employed in the UK creative, arts and entertainment sector – are ex-military personnel.

Recent research conducted by Barclays shows that deploying the number of veterans estimated to leave the military in the next five years, into suitable employment, could plug one in six future vacancies.

If achieved, this optimisation has the potential to add a staggering £12.6bn to the UK economy – a figure that is equivalent to the annual production of the UK Pharmaceuticals industry. It’s also a figure that demonstrates real commercial value that ex-military personnel can bring to the workforce, and something that shouldn’t be ignored by UK businesses.

As someone who served in the British Army for 20 years, it’s easy for me to identify and recognise the unique skills and qualities that come from a career in the armed forces. Yet, there continues to be growing evidence which suggests that many veterans find the process of transition challenging.

A previous study conducted by Barclays revealed that finding a job is the biggest worry for almost half of veterans, with a quarter feeling under-equipped to create a CV that would grab the attention of an employer. Looking ahead, it is estimated that one in 10 veterans will experience long term unemployment, and a further 12 per cent will be employed, but in a job where their skills are being under-utilised.

Without intervention to change the approach and attitude taken to hiring veterans, the UK economy could suffer losses of up to £1.5bn by 2021.

So what can employers gain by leveraging the value of ex-forces personnel for their business?

(1) Leadership

Military thinking is suited to the dynamics of commercial business – regularly dealing with factors beyond our control but staying focused on delivering success through periods of uncertainty.

Developing and maintaining a disciplined, confident approach to management is something that veterans can translate to a commercial situation to great effect.

(2) Communication

Clear and concise communication is a critical requirement at all levels in the armed forces to ensure military operations run smoothly, often in stressful and hostile conditions, which is a skill that translates across the commercial arena too.

The military teaches you how to present complex issues in a way that is easy to understand; it’s a crucial discipline that helps drive decision-making.

(3) Personal Drive

Military personnel are task and results-orientated and are specifically trained to inspire and motivate the team around them to work in a dynamic and productive way.

Military personnel often change roles every 12 to 18 months, as they are posted between different appointments. Consequently, they are adept at having to constantly take in new information, learning quickly and adapting at pace. These are qualities that area also valued highly in the business world.

Those employers who can recognise the value of an ex-military candidate are also recognising the potential veterans have to plug many of the existing skills gaps in their workforce. It also provides veterans with a fair and fighting chance to fulfil a second career as they embark on their post-military lives

Supplementary information

Barclays, as a founding member of the Veterans Employment Transition Support (VETS) programme, is urging employers to see hiring veterans as a business imperative. VETS is formed of a coalition of willing companies, the MOD and leading military charities, who seek to work within existing transition support efforts to maximise employment outcomes for veterans and employers alike.

Further information can be found at https://www.veteranemployment.co.uk/