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Improving labour market transitions for the Armed Forces Community

IER has been at the forefront of research into labour market transitions and the Armed Forces Community since 2014, developing a large body of work which is being used to influence government policy during a time of significant change. All of this work has been undertaken with QinetiQ, a public-private partnership which provides technological and scientific expertise. Themes covered in this body of work include: work-life balance in the Armed Forces; comparisons of military engineering careers with those in industry; barriers to employment among military spouses and partners; and self-employment among the Armed Forces Community. The research identifies ways in which policy-makers, employers, relevant charities and other key stakeholders can support and enhance the labour market outcomes of ex-serving personnel and their families.

There has been little or no known research on work-life balance among serving personnel and the MOD was keen to find out about the links between work-life balance and retention. Research in this area has shown that although flexible working initiatives are available for serving personnel, people did not know about these and/or were unwilling to use them as they felt that this would be detrimental to their career. Some very traditional working practices meant that some female service personnel were leaving and planning to work in lower-level civilian jobs just to ensure a better work-life balance and a better family life.

IER’s work on the employment of military spouses/partners commissioned by the Army Families Federation with Libor funding in September 2017 showed that military spouses/partners, the majority of whom are women, are particularly constrained in their employment decisions. The main barriers to military spousal employment centre around childcare; postings and deployment; ability to keep up with training and professional development; lack of (re)training opportunities; having to change career path; and MOD reluctance to support military spouses/partners and the general military culture.

Research on self-employment of veterans, commissioned by Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), funded by the Big Lottery, showed that they have many of the qualities required for a successful self-employment but there are continuing barriers, including a lack of commercial knowledge, unrealistic expectations about work opportunities, a degree of naivety in veterans’ relations with civilians, with many having fallen victim to scams and bad investment, risking the sustainability of the business.

Currently, IER is conducting a project on labour market transitions of Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCOs) funded by the Forces in Mind Trust.

Findings from the research have informed the RAF Flexible Duties trial; supported the development of a pack for those returning to work following maternity/paternity leave; and resulted in the New Employment Model (NEM) team revisiting options related to flexible working that were initially discarded. They have informed stakeholder recruitment and retention policy development; provided a model and method which could be employed for further comparisons of the Defence engineering Offer against that provided by industry and provided evidence to underpin Royal Navy activities such as the Faraday Project. The Army Families Fund (AFF) is currently setting up the online jobs platform, in collaboration with Manpower, one of the key recommendations from the research.

Findings from the research have been presented at the MOD and at numerous MOD events. They were presented to an invited audience at an event at the London Stock Exchange, opened by the Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson, and with an evening audience including the Chief Of Defence People (CDP), Lt General Richard Nugee CVO; the Group Chief Financial Officer of the London Stock Exchange, David Warren; and the Patron of X-Forces Enterprise, Right Honourable Lord Young of Graffham, among others. Professor Lyonette has been offered a place on the Partner Employment Steering Group (PESG) and the Veterans Strategy Academic Advisory Group, both facilitated by the MOD.

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