Service leavers to school teachers is a timely initiative, but both Government and business should do more

As skills shortages seem to be a recurring theme in our nation’s economic narrative, the experience of military veterans entering the civilian work force will become more relevant.

Earlier this month the Department for Education and the Ministry of Defence launched a new bursary for military veterans to retrain as teachers. Every week businesses across the country benefit from the unique skill-set that military service helps to foster.

However, there remains, in some quarters, a lack of understanding of the key skills that veterans possess. A recent report, Veterans Work, showed only 66 per cent of large and medium organisations perceive veterans as having good communication skills.

Yet we have found that communication skills are consistently highlighted as a key strength of veterans by their new employers. In fact, veterans often excel in the workplace: research shows over half the employers of veterans say that they tend to be promoted more quickly than the rest of the workforce.

Our Armed Forces are second to none in helping individuals achieve their full potential. Veterans bring much sought-after skills including problem solving, strategic thinking and leadership, as well as a sound work ethic and resilience under pressure.

Bursaries such as the one announced this week are helpful, alongside transition support and career advice for veterans from organisations such as the Officers’ Association. For the next generation, the Government’s teaching bursary scheme will help to create excellent teachers, mentors and role models. For the Government, it means a further return on the investment already made in the military training of veterans.

Service leavers are an untapped resource which should not be overlooked. Their transferable skills and potential could make a significant contribution to businesses and society. Successful organisations like Deloitte already have programmes aimed specifically at harnessing military talent. Other businesses, whatever their size, might do well to follow this model.

Businesses – especially smaller ones where each employee is instrumental to the success of the organisation – need pro-active employees, who will work hard, either alone of as part of a team, and who can troubleshoot difficult situations. I would urge ambitious businesses to look at the wide range of skills that veterans have to offer.