Veterans employment: the case of BT Openreach

BT has also been a long-standing employer of choice for ex-armed forces personnel and has capitalised on the skills that these individuals bring to its business. 

BT’s relationship with the military dates back many decades; it has long supported the UK through its major technology and people investments in commercial, networking and security operations activities across Government, including the MOD and armed services.

In 2010, Openreach – the part of BT Group that looks after the UK’s local access network - launched a major recruitment drive across the UK to boost its fibre broadband roll-out, and 1,600 new engineering jobs were created. When they realised their traditional recruiting channels could not deliver the volume of recruits in the timescales needed, they turned to the Career Transition Partnership (CTP), the MOD’s official provider of Armed Forces resettlement services.

Partnering with the CTP

At the time, the armed forces were undergoing a dramatic reduction in size and reorganisation and over 12,000 Service personnel were made redundant, in addition to the normal outflow. Openreach and CTP worked together to create a work attachment programme for Service leavers transitioning out of the military. The programme included 6 weeks training and 6 weeks work experience, before candidates were invited to interview for a permanent job – 87% were successful.

The initial recruitment campaign was a huge success and Openreach found that by working alongside CTP they were able access a huge pool of high-quality talent.

Business as usual

Over the last few years, Openreach has worked with the CTP to deliver a number of high-volume recruitment campaigns, and they now employ over 2,000 ex-military personnel. The business understands the value of military experience, and ensures that all new engineering roles are advertised to Service leavers via the CTP website.

In addition to Service leavers, BT employs more reservists than any other UK company – with an estimated 400 spread across the business. Openreach itself accounts for 80% of that number, which includes around two thirds of the personnel employed in 81 Signal Squadron - a specialist reserve communications unit that supports the armed forces across the globe. To support this growing community, BT has long-standing clear and supportive HR policies for reservists, including extra paid-leave.

A bold commitment to mentoring  

More recently, BT became the founding partner of Transition Force – a programme designed to support ex and serving armed forces personnel via one-to-one mentoring. So far, over 80 BT Buddies have acted as mentors to over 250 Service leavers and veterans, offering advice and guidance on how to transition into a civilian career. The programme is enabled by Project Fortis, an online platform that matches individuals with mentors, events and job opportunities. BT has committed to recruiting over 200 BT Buddies in 2016.