Honouring our military community: celebrating Armed Forces Day

| minute read

Armed Forces Day is celebrated annually in June to recognise the service of the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force, as well as veterans, cadets and the families of those in the armed forces. . It is a day to commemorate the work and dedication of members, past and present, and the role the Armed Forces play in keeping the UK safe, at home and abroad.

At Sopra Steria, we are a long-standing supporter of the armed forces community, and engagement is a business priority. We are committed to making a positive contribution and helping to pave the way for change. We have a thriving ex-military community of employees, all of whom bring great value and offer diverse perspectives from their experiences in the armed forces.   

As a leading employer of ex-military personnel, and a gold award holder of the Armed Forces Covenant’s Employee Recognition Scheme, we focus on providing comprehensive workplace policies which empower our employees to carry out their civilian work while respecting their military background and duties. Some of the ways in which we do this are:

  • By supporting veterans in the transition to the civilian sector through our Armed Forces Community Network. The network provides fellowship for those who have experienced military life, providing employees the forum to share experiences in a supportive environment and the opportunity to connect with people with similar backgrounds. 
  • Supporting reservists by providing ten days of paid leave for them to serve with their unit
  • Supporting colleagues to fundraise and volunteer for causes they care about, which is supported by paid volunteering leave and match funding for fundraising. This year many have taken part in fundraising activities and volunteered with military charities such as Walking with the Wounded and Blind Veterans.

Transitioning from the military to civilian life

The transition of military veterans to civilian workplaces can be challenging. Research from Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) shows that many veterans still struggle to gain a foothold in civilian employment. The YouGov survey reveals nearly one fifth (18%) of UK senior decision makers with hiring responsibilities are unlikely to consider hiring veterans. And one of the most common reservations is that veterans feel they don’t have the relevant skills or experience - some 44% feel this way. These statistics highlight that there is a great need to support veterans more, so that they can confidently enter the workforce, and enjoy a successful career after leaving the military.

Steve Isaac is Head of Business and Innovation in our Aerospace, Defence, and Security sector. He was a former officer in the Royal Air Force. He shares his insights and advice on how to navigate the complexities of transitioning out of the military and starting a new career.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?

The most significant challenge I faced in my career was transitioning from a highly structured and regimented military organisation that had its own traditions and values to one that I hoped would genuinely value individualism and had its own distinct purpose and values. The corporate sector and some of the companies I joined before Sopra Steria did not necessarily have the same values and sense of purpose that I had been used to after spending nearly two decades in the military. So, I would say adjusting to the new way of life and the work environment was a significant undertaking.

What advice would you offer to Veterans starting their civil careers to help them succeed? 

My advice would be to reach out to colleagues who’ve transitioned into civil careers to gain a better understanding of what to expect and identify potential career matches. I would also say if it’s possible to visit organisations as part of their interview or selection process. Try not do everything remotely, get a feel for the kind of organisation you will be joining and the type of people that are you are likely to work with. Do your research, look online at the company that you're planning to join. Look at their values, at the things that they do, not just from a work perspective, but from a giving back into the community perspective - be that charitable work, or support to allow individuals to carry out volunteering activities. When I first joined Sopra Steria they stood out as a company that upholds values and ethos that are most similar to the military's care. I've had opportunities to volunteer and contribute to the community, and we have an Armed Forces Community Network. This is an excellent platform for individuals with military backgrounds to connect and engage in various events throughout the event alongside offering support, advice and assistance.

Balancing a military and civilian career

Reservists give up their spare time to serve in the reserve forces, balancing their civilian life with a military career to ensure that should their country require them, they would be ready to serve. The reserve forces make up approximately one sixth of the UK's armed forces personnel and as such are integral to protecting the nation’s security at home and overseas. 

June 21st marks the annual Reserves Day to recognise the valuable contribution reservists make to the armed forces, an area very close to our hearts. In 2013, we pledged to support the armed forces community through the signing of the Armed Forces Covenant. As part of this commitment, we actively encourage employees who wish to become a reservist, as well as support employees who are currently reservists, by providing comprehensive workplace policies which empower them to carry out their reservist duties.

Neil Shelley, a Senior Infrastructure Engineer in our Aerospace, Defence, and Security sector, has had a remarkable career including spending a decade in the military. After leaving the armed forces, Neil chose to continue his service by volunteering as a Sergeant Instructor in the Combined Cadet Force.

Neil shares his valuable insights, offering guidance and inspiration to those navigating the dynamic landscape of military and civilian careers.

What is the key to balancing a military and civilian career – can you offer any advice to other reservists?

I think the key to balancing a military and civilian career is to always remain organised and calm. I am generally a very organised person during my day-to-day work, I like to remain ahead of the game so I’m well prepared for whatever comes. For example, if I’ve got a trip coming up, I’ll be packed two weekends before – this allows me to carry on with my weekly work before such trip occurs. I think another key thing for me is to just keep it simple, I like to segregate the two jobs into a primary and secondary career. While I’m at my Sopra Steria job it becomes my primary career for the time-being and vice versa.

What do you think are the major challenges that military personnel face when transitioning into a civilian career today, and how would you overcome them? 

I joined the military when I was 16, so when I left, I knew nothing else as my only experience was of being in the military. So, when I started applying for jobs, I lacked the commercial knowledge that most organisations required for the roles I was interested in. 

Apart from that, I struggled most with the people aspect to be honest. In the military, it's more of a family life where you all have the same mindset, the same goals and feel supported throughout your experience. It’s also a new challenge to just learn how to live a normal life, where I feel my wife helps me a lot - like ironing a shirt for example, I would spend hours doing it and she’d just tell me to get on with it, it’s just a shirt.

I think the biggest piece of advice I could offer is just to take it slow, one day at a time. After leaving your military career, you start your career once again in your civilian life. I would just say to take it as it comes, ask questions, be curious and if you struggle reach out to your family and other ex-military personnel for help. If you follow your morals and values from the military, they transfer over to a normal life anyway and they help keep you grounded. 

How does Sopra Steria support you in your role of being a reservist?

I think what makes my job here at Sopra Steria easier is most people here know what my military role is. In my last job I had to explain a lot of it but at SSL since there are loads of ex-military people it’s easier for them to understand what I do and used to do in the military. I also feel quite supported in my role; I’ve got a week away in a months' time to do some volunteering work which I quite enjoy.

Learn more about our Armed Forces community here

View current opportunities at Sopra Steria here



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