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The increasing use of technology, especially within the Royal Navy and RAF, makes the Armed Forces a leading source of recruits for the smarter talent pool.

Modern warfare requires more highly qualified recruits; it offers them leading edge training, and thereby produces smarter talent which is also highly regarded in civilian life. A more technological Armed Forces is already a leading source for the smarter future talent pool. We heard that “the Armed Forces, particularly the Navy and the RAF, are very technology literate. They are dealing with technology first and foremost.” Indeed, in several fields such as cyber security and surveillance, the expert opinion is that “military capability is a long way ahead of the commercial world.”

Not all sectors of the Armed Forces will benefit from increased training, however. “The Army is less exposed to cutting edge technology in their careers”. The type of skills necessary to patrol the streets in, for example, Helmand Province, do not require significant technical knowledge, and because of this the capability of military recruits is sometimes lower: “The average reading age in my regiment was age 11. We had a concerted effort to get that up to age 14, so that everyone could use the tech that they were given.” This type of skills deficit may be reflected in the higher unemployment rates of private soldiers compared to other veterans: 8% of Army veterans are unemployed 6 months after leaving, compared to 4% for Navy and RAF veterans. However, some see a change ahead. “Inside the Army, they certainly aspire to recruit people who look rather more like the RAF or the Navy. The Army is much more technical these days, so will seek to have a community of people that look more like the other two Services and can work the toys.”

That said, with “political concern about cyber warfare and new threats,” the steady shift to a more technological Armed Forces is evident. There is already an increase in spending on digital tech, and expectations of the need for (and affordability of) fewer planes, ships, and tanks. Consequently, future talent will be both smarter and more in demand in the wider world. “We will have seen an acceleration in the revolution that digital tech will bring – we are still near the bottom of the S-curve.” This will also move beyond just officer level: “Led by the Intelligence Corps, there are many soldiers with degrees. It will change, but it will not happen quickly.”

Given the increased use of technology in the civilian environment, several consider that demand for ex-military talent may further expand. “The biggest challenge for many organisations is the increasing focus on technology, and those that are trying to find their way through it to do it. It’s an opportunity for Service leavers. Financial crime and fraud are very relevant – this area has opportunities for IT security, risk management and prevention and follow up, and dealing with financial crime.”

Alongside technological skills, the Armed Forces also train personnel in other ways which organisations, large and small, find useful. Think, for example, of leadership and problem-solving abilities, not to mention “discipline, loyalty, leadership, communication – being very organised and thoughtful.” In addition, they tend to be more focused, so “as organisations become less easy to understand but more purposeful, it should suit military personnel well.” Despite all this, there was a perception amongst many of those we spoke to that some civilian employers are somewhat biased against returning Service personnel, perceiving them to be difficult to employ. This is manifestly not the case for the vast majority. One proposed solution is to increase transparency between the MOD and future employers in the civilian world. “I would like the employer of active Service people (MOD) to have a completely transparent relationship with business, such that there is complete understanding of the skills that individuals can bring from their former profession into the ‘new world’ – it’s the “holy grail.”

An Implication: Many see significant opportunity to build stronger, more dynamic pathways between commercial tech firms and those in, or transitioning from, the military.

 

Discussion

3 Comments

Anonymous

In the US, we see that service leavers are outperforming their civilian peers. However, we are finding a lower rate of retention.

Anonymous

Remember that the military are changing – particularly in RN / RAF – with flatter structures, more empowerment, managing your own career – so this fits with wider society. As a result, transition could be better as people will be more engaged.

Anonymous

This can and will extend right across the military.  It’s not just about aircraft carriers, engineers and fighter pilots. It will extend right across the piece.