MANY spouses and partners find themselves considering starting or changing their career path. AFF Employment & Training Specialist Laura Lewin offers advice on training courses…

I frequently receive enquiries about access to training or education and our evidence demonstrates that you can face many barriers, including funding, mobility, overseas postings and limited childcare support from your soldier and family members.

Where do I start?
It’s sensible to note your current skills and qualifications and research what else you’ll need to do to reach your goal.

You’ll also need to consider how you’ll complete your studies around Service family life; perhaps a distance learning course is the only option if you move frequently.

There’s a useful policy in place to support retention of Service Family Accommodation if you are undertaking an adult educational course and your soldier has been short-toured.

It’s important to note that the course must have been started in the realistic expectation that it would have been completed within your soldier’s original assignment period.

Do your research
Training can be costly and you’ll need to commit a vast amount of time to any course you sign up for, so look out for grants or funding opportunities and make a plan to help ensure that you can complete your studies around any house moves, deployments and family commitments. 

I spoke to four spouses on different courses who are on the road to fulfilling their ambitions…

Nicola Wright
Course: Access to Higher Education

I’ve been married to Terry for 15 years and we have two children, Jessica and Jamie.

Reason for choosing this course:
I was fascinated with midwifery after my own experience. I really liked the idea of working closely with women and helping them through what is such a significant yet special time. Whilst posted in Cyprus I started a distance learning access to higher education course.

How does it fit with Army life?
I started really well and managed to fit in study every day after I finished work. Progress halted six months in when we were posted back to the UK and my whole routine changed. Spending quality time with the children whilst they were home from boarding school meant I put my studies to the bottom of my priorities, so it took a further 11 months to finish the course.

Next steps:
I received offers from three universities near our next posting in Aldershot, so I’ll begin to study midwifery at the University of Surrey in September. 

Top tip:
Distance learning is tough and requires organisation, motivation and dedication, yet with support it’s achievable – I’d recommend it to anyone.

Ashley Woodhouse
Course: Healthcare Assistant (HCA) NVQ Level 2/3

My dad was a guardsman and I met my soldier husband Scott in Catterick. We have four boys aged 11, five, three and two and my step-daughter who is 12.

Reason for choosing this course:
By accident! I was supposed to take up a paramedic apprentice scheme in Darlington when my husband received an unexpected promotion, which meant we had to up and leave for Dorset. Feeling disheartened I searched for lots of jobs throughout the NHS and the HCA role came up. I was lucky to get offered a place on the bank team at Poole hospital.

How does it fit with Army life?
I’m able to do a variety of shifts, which is why I chose to be on the bank for flexibility. In Bovington, we have stability due to the nature of Scott’s job.

Next steps:
I will be a fully-trained HCA for our next posting where I’ll continue into university to train as either a paramedic or midwife. I’m still undecided on which field I want to go into, hence choosing a job where I can get a feel for everything.

Top tip:
Go for it. Focus on you – it’s a nice feeling after all these years doing something for myself.

Sarah Barber
Course: Bar Professional Training Course

I finished my law degree at the University of Southampton in 2017. My husband is a Grenadier Guard, our daughter is two and my step-daughter is nine. 

Reason for choosing this course:
I planned to study politics at university, but I got fed up with politicians and decided I was better suited to law. I’ve never looked back.

How does it fit with Army life?
We moved to Aldershot and I started the vocational training to become a barrister as it was easily commutable to London. But my husband deployed for seven months so I had to juggle being a mum, working part-time and studying on my own. For some exams, I was able to change dates and times to make sure I could pick up my daughter and I had lots of support from my fantastic mother-in-law.

Next steps:
I’ve been ‘called to the bar’ – essentially a passing out parade for barristers – and I hope to find pupillage within family law to complete the last part of my training.

Top tip:
Don’t let anything hold you back – it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. There are tons of options for studying, you just have to be focused and accept support when it’s offered.

Chelsea Tudhope
Course: MSc in Midwifery

I’m originally from Niagara Falls, New York and was completing my degree in psychology in Florida when I met my husband Rich, who’s in the Royal Signals.

Reason for choosing this course:
After having my first daughter I became fascinated with supporting women through the transition to becoming a mother.

How does it fit with Army life?
It’s very challenging. Not only is midwifery a three-year, full-time academic course, but you’re also expected to follow your mentor’s full-time schedule which includes night and weekend shifts. We’ve had to arrange full-time childcare and have been lucky enough to live on a wonderful patch with supportive friends who help with school runs. In Scotland the course is funded and I also receive a bursary which helps to alleviate some of the childcare costs. It wouldn’t have been possible to move and complete the course; we were able to extend so I could finish my final year here.

Next steps:
As soon as I graduate we will be off to our next posting and I can apply for midwifery roles.

Top tip:
At times it’s quite a minefield to work out logistics, but it’s amazing to build a career in something that you’re passionate about. I would highly recommend it.

AFF training portal coming soon
TRAINING has been a key focus for AFF for many years. Our recent employment research report delivered by the University of Warwick recommended that more information needs to be made available to spouses to help them make choices about training.

We’re now in the process of developing a new online employment and training platform which will offer access to educational and development opportunities as well as career related information. Look out for the platform’s launch this September.

If you have a question about employment or training, contact Laura at

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