Why ex-military talent is one answer to the skills crisis

Sam Di Talamo, Communications Manager for BITC’s Employment for Excluded Groups Team, explains why veterans are one source of talent that businesses can't afford to miss out on.

Britain is in the grip of a skills crisis, with staff shortages across a variety of sectors from healthcare to engineering. Job vacancies have risen to their highest in the past 18 months and there’s concerns that Britain’s exit from the EU will only make matters worse. So, where do employers find the talent they need to plug the skills gap and grow their business?

One group that could be part of the solution is ex-military personnel. Former Service men and women are a valuable source of home-grown talent, offering a wealth of transferable skills, including, teamwork, leadership adaptability, and resilience. Yet three in ten employers admit they have not even considered employing veterans.

Developing an Armed Forces friendly recruitment practice

BITC members tell us that it’s not simply a case of businesses failing to understand the value of hiring veterans. Often the good intention is there – just look at the growing numbers of businesses signing up to the Armed Forces Covenant and pledging to ‘support the employment of veterans young and old’. What’s lacking is an understanding about how to attract and recruit ex-military personnel.

Our new toolkit ‘Capitalising on military talent: Everything you need to know about employing Armed Forces Veterans’ is designed to help businesses turn their interest and commitment into action. Written with input from a range of businesses, it is packed full of tips and suggestions to help employers strengthen their workforce by offering veterans good quality, fulfilling second careers.

It draws on examples from employers such as Barclays, Jaguar Land Rover, and Fujitsu who have supported veterans through a range of employability activities, including work placements, mentoring, coaching, and job opportunities - and seen direct business benefits, as a result.

What are the barriers to employing veterans?

Many veterans still struggle to gain a foothold in civilian employment and one of the biggest difficulties lies in skills translation. Veterans have trouble identifying appropriate opportunities and struggle to explain how their military experience can be adapted to the business world. And many businesses simply don’t know enough about military hierarchies and culture to interpret military CVs and job applications. 

Sadly, these barriers hold many ex-military personnel back from achieving their full potential. According to the Royal British Legion, working age veterans are nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as their civilian counterparts (11% vs 6% ). When you consider the skills and talent veterans’ offer, as well as the sacrifices they have made, there is a strong social and business case for employers to do more to educate themselves about military culture, language and jobs. 

What are the rewards?

For those businesses who are willing to make a little extra effort, there is a lot to be gained. Businesses that employ veterans are very positive about the value they bring – citing increased loyalty and engagement amongst their veteran employees, as well as a tendency to be promoted quicker.

One example that stands out from the toolkit is from BT Openreach. They have tracked the performance of veterans applying to field engineering roles and shown that they have a 10% higher pass rate than non-veterans. They have also found that their veteran employees have a higher retention rate, lower sick absence rates and take less time to achieve full competence, leading to productivity gains for the business.

What are you waiting for?

So, if your business is keen to take advantage of these benefits, but you’re not sure how to go about doing it, I’d encourage you to the use the toolkit to design a military employment programme that works for you.

BITC is here to help you take action. Start by joining our LinkedIn group to connect with other employers who are capitalising on military talent.



1. Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), Report on Jobs

2. Deloitte, Veterans Work: Recognising the potential of ex-Service personnel

3. Royal British Legion, Deployment to Employment: Exploring the Veteran Employment Gap in the UK