Jane Gray finds out how manufacturers playing their part in the UK’s military Reserve forces are also strengthening their employers with key transferable skills and self-motivated development.
Since 2003 and the invasion of Iraq, over 19,000 volunteer Reservists, have supplemented the UKs regular armed forces in their military operations around the globe. In total there are now around 34,000 volunteers working across all the different reservist forces (Territorial Army and Royal Naval, Marine and Air Force Reserves) making up 25% of the UKs defence capacity.
However, when they are not on active service Reservists are part of the everyday workforce in approximately 20,000 British companies including hundreds of manufacturers. There are some misgivings among employers about the negative impact of dual responsibilities but an appreciation is steadily building that supporting Reservist employees can bring unique benefits to businesses.
Tim Corry, campaign Manager at SaBRE (Support for Britain’s Reservists and Employers) explains: “There are important soft skills that reservists learn and develop during their training; things like team work, motivation, communication skills and leadership. On the other hand there are also hard skills like health and safety, first aid, IT skills, driving skills and so on.” The development of these skills can be of great benefit to individuals in their civilian work according to David Williams, PMO Manager of the Corus1Programme at Tata Steel and a Major in the Territorial Army. “When I was on operations in Iraq I was working in a multinational, multiagency, multifunctional environment,” he says. “The experience of being exposed to that all be it in the heat of military operations was absolutely first class in preparing me for work on the Corus1Programme which has all the same qualities.” Reservist generally develop and demonstrates a pro-active attitude on the part of employees that suggests they will go above and beyond the norm in order to get their work done.
Of course with increasing demands being put on UK defense personnel in the field, the possibility of extended periods of absence by reservist employees will inevitably be a concern for employers focusing on business continuity. Corry however, reassures that help is at hand. “There is something called Financial Assistance available to employers and there are three parts to that. Firstly an employer can chose to receive funding to cover the costs of employing someone temporarily to fill the reservist’s place. The second option is to receive what is essentially an administrative grant that covers the costs of retaining the reservist on the company’s books. Lastly there are retraining allowances, particularly available to employers in hi-tech industries, where the employer can cover any costs of retraining an individual when they return from service should technology and skills requirements have altered.” Corry says it is important for employers to overcome their concerns and show support for individuals thinking of participating in Reservist activities. “If an individual is keen to participate in the Reserves, it speaks volumes about the motivation of that person and their tendencies to go above and beyond. Employers should also think about how supporting volunteer activities reflects on their corporate responsibility profile and their recruitment capabilities.”