Saluting the service – and transferable skills

7th July 2021 Posted by

During Armed Forces week, around 20 SUEZ recycling and recovery UK sites across the country flew the flag to commemorate the Armed Forces. This year, Saturday 26 June was an important day in the calendar for a select band of people in our country, and one we all have cause to celebrate and salute. Armed Forces Day is a chance for everyone to show their support for the men and women who serve, and have served, as well as cadets, and all their families.

Many of our employees took part in special events to mark the day. We also dedicated our weekly Wellness for All Webinar to our veterans and their families, when several shared their stories with our wider workforce.

SUEZ recycling and recovery UK employs more than 150 veterans, and we also have in our ranks colleagues who volunteer with the Cadet Force and spouses or partners of personnel who are serving or have served in the armed forces.

So, as an employer, we are mindful that recognising and supporting the service leavers in our midst is a year-round commitment, and not just an annual one-off. Since 2018 we’ve had a Veterans Network. In 2019 I had the honour of signing the Armed Services Covenant on behalf of the company. And last year we were awarded Bronze in the armed forces Employer Recognition Scheme.

We are also stepping up the support we provide to our veterans and their families. But first, I should say that we believe not only that this is the right thing to do. There’s also a compelling business case as well as a moral imperative to recognise the service veterans have given us and our country.

Each year around 15,000 people leave the armed forces. The latest estimate for the number of veterans living around Great Britain is 2.4 million (from the 2017 population survey). Of these, 40% are of working age.

Service leavers have skills and qualities of great ongoing value to our economy and society. Our army, navy and air force are renowned for the quality of their training. In our experience, veterans also have an exceptional work ethic and show great dedication to their work. Having performed their military duties in often highly challenging conditions, they bring unrivalled commitment and experience to their civilian jobs. Team working, leadership organisation skills and initiative are among the other qualities of ex-services personnel that we value highly. These skills and attributes are highly transferable to a safety-conscious and customer-centric business like ours, or indeed any organisation.

Over the last 10 years, for example, through recruitment fairs we have attracted veterans to fill technical and specialist roles within our energy business.

However, we recognise that the transition to civilian life can be difficult for service leavers. We work closely with the Careers Transition Partnership (CTP), which provides a high-quality, no-cost employment service. Veterans are no less likely to be employed than the rest of the population. CPT statistics show that 86% of veterans using the service find employment within six months and 8% go on to further education or training, or choose not to seek work.

Like many employers, and society generally, we are more aware than ever of the importance of mental health and wellbeing. Again, veterans enjoy comparable general health to British civilians. But, as might be expected, they are more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The latest statistics (for 2014/16) indicated that 6% of veterans were affected by PTSD – up from 4% in 2004/06, while the comparable rate for the general population was 4.4%.

Our Wellness Webinars, which are open to all employees and their families, have included  a range of mental health topics, including PTSD. We have also tailored our Mental Health First Aid Awareness Training specifically for veterans. In addition, SUEZ provides courses in Emotional Freedom Technique and Emotion Code. We are also increasing the resources we put into relevant training, mental health and support for armed forces charities as we expand our Veterans’ Network.

The network is there to ensure new starters get a warm welcome from a ‘buddy’ who has shared similar experience. It’s also a vehicle for sharing information, and offering advice and camaraderie to service leavers as they adjust to civilian life and careers within SUEZ. New members receive a welcome pack and a silver V badge to wear at work.

The network has now gone regional, and it has also expanded to embrace the partners and families of our veterans. We know that serving in the armed forces can have a heavy impact on spouses and close family as well as the veterans themselves. Facebook and Yammer groups help keep network members from around the country in touch. Our regional reps provide a more accessible point of contact, help arrange local events and fundraising, and feed back to our central team. Having organised a series of regional and online meetings, the network has planned our first organisation-wide Annual Veterans Conference this September.

Our employer policies, which already provide five days’ paid leave each year for reservists to train, has extended this support to Cadet Force Adult Volunteers, along with the flexibility to take additional leave where necessary. This has freed up volunteers to attend summer camps and other cadet training events.

At the end of last year our veterans voted for the charities and environmental projects they wanted to share in a £5,000 SUEZ UK donation fund in 2021. The five charities included groups who support homeless veterans, organise Christmas parties for the children who have lost parents who served in the armed forces, and Combat Stress, which focuses on PTSD.

Fundraising activities in the offing include the Big Battlefield Bike Ride and a skydive by 20 employees, including veterans, in aid of Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion.

SUEZ will continue to fly the flag for the armed forces community who serve our country, and our customers, with great dedication.

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