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

Modern warfare requires 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 Royal 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 this increased training, however. The Army has a history of recruiting individuals who are less educated. “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 transferrable skills 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.” In addition, although highly trained, many of the skills learned in the military are not transferrable. This 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.

Looking ahead, we heard that greater support is needed for the more vulnerable recruits. While some in our workshops noted progress and future intent, there would appear to remain a gap, particularly for those who may be least well equipped. As one put it: “For the Army, there is already real drive to support people to get basic minimum qualifications in certain areas, but I wonder if basic business skills training needs to be included, even before we get into deeper CTP offers. CTP is not mandated, particularly for Early Service Leavers – and these are often the most vulnerable – so why are we allowing these people to leave without these basic skills? Making CTP mandatory is not a new idea, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth re-considering.”

Some see a change ahead. “Inside the Army, they certainly aspire to recruit people who look rather more like those in the RAF or the Royal 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.” 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. One concern which was frequently made was the lack of STEM skills among potential recruits. “Unless public education improves, some of the problems we have already, particularly with those from disadvantaged communities, will continue.”

It is clear that future skills acquired while in Service 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 Army 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 need experienced support to manage it well. It’s an opportunity for Service leavers. Financial crime and fraud are very relevant – this area has opportunities for IT security, risk management, prevention and follow up, and dealing with financial crime.”

Alongside technological skills, the Armed Forces also train personnel in other ways that 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.”

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, so 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.”

Example Implication: Many see significant opportunity to build stronger, more dynamic pathways between commercial technology-based firms and those in, or transitioning from, the military. Greater collaboration between senior military and civilian leaders is needed.




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


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.


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.