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Why ex-armed forces personnel can bring exceptional skills and experience to construction

At a time when the construction industry is crying out for highly skilled individuals, I am often surprised by how few companies tap into the talents of former armed forces personnel. 

As an ex-Royal Engineer officer myself, I have seen first hand the breadth of capabilities that servicemen and women can bring into civilian life.

Many of these qualities are attractive to firms working in the built environment.

However, those with little knowledge of military life may harbour misconceptions. A common fallacy is that the armed forces function on the basis of barked orders.

In reality, leadership is about building and sustaining morale. Ex-military staff will be highly experienced at motivating others, co-ordinating teams and getting the best out of individuals.

Compared with their civilian counterparts, servicemen and women can often have more sustained experience in leadership roles.

They typically gain leadership experience much earlier in their careers and will often have led substantial complex teams.

Complex co-operation

Broad experience of collaboration is another bonus.

The armed forces are divided into many specialist units that must co-operate to complete highly complex missions. This experience is directly applicable to Aecom’s business of offering integrated, multidisciplinary services across diverse geographies.

“The least we can do as employers is greet them as skilled individuals rather than with doubts that they won’t fit within a corporate culture”

Safe operation in high-risk environments is another common factor, along with management of tight budgets, an emphasis on right-first-time quality, and decision-making in the face of ambiguity and uncertainty. Many military people also possess strong technical skills in areas such as logistics, project management, construction and emergency response.

Among the most desirable attributes typical of services personnel is a determined, positive mindset – a can-do, go-anywhere, do-anything attitude. This characteristic is earned by overcoming often formidable challenges in training and operations.

Supporting adaptation

Aecom actively recruits people as they leave the armed forces, knowing what they can add to our rich talent pool. Although ex-military people tend to be highly adaptable, some things will be very different for them and we provide support in their transition to civilian life.

Our work was last week recognised by the Ministry of Defence with a Gold Award in its UK Armed Forces Covenant Employer Recognition Scheme.

Armed forces personnel risk their lives to serve their country. When they leave, the least we can do as employers is greet them as skilled individuals rather than with doubts that they won’t fit within a corporate culture.

Companies that see beyond parade-ground clichés to the calibre of the individuals stand to gain a lot.

Steve Morriss is chief executive, Europe, Middle East, India and Africa, at Aecom



Skanska skills

Following our skills supplement last year, watch as Skanska UK project manager Luke Raine highlights the challenges facing military personnel seeking a career outside the armed forces

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