SPOT a vacancy, fire off your application, job done. If only finding work was that simple, writes Jill Misson. When you’re part of an army family it can feel like the cards are stacked against you. Will they ask when your partner is posted? Are you lacking skills after moving around? Can you manage childcare with no family close by?
Tilly Lambert feels stuck in entry-level jobs. She said: “It’s a nightmare. We move so often, usually around the time you’d look to promote, so I never get the chance to take that next step.
“I now have a patchwork CV and it looks very unappealing to employers.”
AFF understands that army spouses find it challenging to maintain meaningful employment or access training. Employment & training specialist Laura Lewin said: “These barriers can have a significant impact, from affecting the spouses’ confidence and sense of identity, to the financial impact on the family with the reliance on the salary of the service person.”
In June 2018, AFF published a tri-service report which revealed that 45 per cent of spouses and partners surveyed had reported a perceived discrimination when applying for a job.
Lizzie Barstow admitted to A&Y that interviews can be tricky: “It’s difficult to know whether to be honest with employers,” she said.
“Some know they will have to start the recruitment process again in 12-24 months and are reluctant to do that. I got asked where I see myself in five years’ time – a very straightforward question for someone not associated with the military, but because of my husband’s job I have absolutely no idea.”
Amy Peak studied hard to upgrade her professional qualifications but still encountered resistance from employers. She said: “I passed with excellent grades, but when I applied for jobs, I was either told that there was someone else who could guarantee being reliable or they questioned how long I’d be able to stay in the job. This had a huge impact on my self-confidence.”
Forces Families Jobs
A new online one-stop shop for employment and training opportunities is launching on 17 September. The Forces Families Jobs platform is being delivered by AFF, working with the Naval and RAF families federations.
You’ll be able to register a profile and search for jobs by sector, salary range, role type and location, both in the UK and overseas.
“We wanted to make sure the platform supports everyone, no matter what stage you are at, from writing a CV to career advice and training,” said Laura.
“You can find out about local events, insight days and personal development opportunities. We’ve also engaged with anyone working in the spousal employment support space.”
One strong relationship is with the Supporting the Unsung Hero business support programme at the University of Wolverhampton. Project manager Sarah Walker said: “We are proud to be a key partner and the ‘go to’ organisation for start-up support for spouses.”
Unique selling point
Any employer wishing to advertise on Forces Families Jobs must have signed the Armed Forces Covenant. Organisations can tailor their own pledges but may offer flexible working, opportunities to transfer your job on posting or additional leave for periods of deployment.
National Express Group has introduced a guaranteed interview scheme, not only for service leavers, but also for partners and spouses of those currently serving, which helps you get over the first hurdle in applying for posts.
One major employer already on the site is Amazon UK. Gillian Russell, the firm’s military programme manager, said: “We’re very excited about having an avenue to directly advertise our military programmes, initiatives and jobs.
“We know there are so many candidates who will be a fantastic fit for Amazon and hope that our involvement will encourage other employers to see the value in this population and that they too will commit to developing programmes for the untapped potential in forces families.”
Working for an Armed Forces Covenant signatory can make a big difference to your experience as a member of staff. Army spouse Emma Barbour-Johnston, who works for UK Power Networks, said: “When my partner was deployed for six months, my boss was absolutely great at understanding that my leave would need to be flexible because R&R dates and flights can change.
“I’ve heard stories of people going through the wringer to get extra days off when their partner has come home from serving our country. They haven’t been swanning off in the sunshine and it’s stressful enough.”
Military spouse Kirsty Mickelburgh is looking forward to using Forces Families Jobs to help her find work when she moves back from Cyprus.
She said: “I’ve been using my time over here to add to my qualifications. I had worked as a sales assistant in the UK but there was no flexibility when my husband was on tour or courses.”
Another unique function of the Forces Families Jobs website is the option to search for roles in organisations that have received an award for the support they offer to the service community.
Natalie Haynes from Defence Relationship Management explained: “We work with employers to adapt their HR policies and practices, ensuring they make robust spousal employment pledges and we appraise and reward this work via the Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS).”
Guidance on building the Forces Families Jobs platform was given by Gold ERS-winning recruitment company Manpower. Jeremy Hay-Campbell, head of corporate affairs, said: “We’re committed to supporting the wider defence community and with our expertise it made perfect sense for us to provide our insight to help make this project happen. This is the first time that family members from across the services have had one place to go to find work from employers who are aware of their needs.
“With links to training and other advice we hope the platform can have a real impact and make a real difference.”
Check out forcesfamiliesjobs.co.uk and keep an eye on AFF’s social media for more – @The_AFF #ForcesFamiliesJobs
AFF thanks Forces Families Jobs funders and partners Annington Trust, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, Broadbean, Defence Relationship Management, Manpower Group, Royal Air Force Association, Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity, University of Wolverhampton