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From the military to construction

Posted: 28/11/2019

With an acute skills shortage in the construction industry and approximately 120,000 unemployed military veterans of working age in Britain today, with 14,000 leaving the Armed Forces each year, construction companies are looking at ways to raise awareness of the industry and tap into the wealth of potential employees who have a wide range of transferable skills.

Chris recently joined leading contractor Higgins as a trainee site manager. Chris enlisted in the army at 19 as a mechanic attached to the Parachute Regiment based at Merville Barracks in Colchester.

Chris comments, “During my time in the forces I was able to gain a whole host of skills from technical to personal. The training was intense including various parachute insertions and combat training exercises in Kenya and Germany. After six years, I decided it was time to consider my future options and return to Civvy street.

“The army connected me with a number of charities, training agencies and networking events to help find employment and work out what to do next. Inspired by a number of family members who have forged successful careers in the construction industry, I decided to see if I could transfer my existing skills and enter the sector.

“I took the initiative and signed myself up to a five-week Building Heroes programme and left with a Level 1 qualification in Construction Maintenance, a taster of the industry, and my CSCS card. As a result of the programme I received a number of job offers and decided to join Higgins due to its strong reputation and investment in developing and progressing its people.”

Chris joined Higgins in September 2019 as a Trainee Site Manager and is based at Woolwich Reach, E16 which will deliver 75 affordable homes overlooking the River Thames.

Chris continues, “Higgins has provided me with mentoring and support which has made the transition really smooth for me. The site team has also taken the time to show me the ropes, and have helped by explaining construction terminology, which I found really differs from the military lingo. I’ve already undertaken a number of training courses, and I am really confident that I will continue to progress my career here.”

Higgins is committed to supporting the Armed Forces and recently signed the Armed Forces Covenant which pledges to actively support the Armed Forces community and continue to recognise the value serving personnel, veterans and their families contribute to the business and the country.

Amy Ross, Head of Social Value at Higgins comments, “As a company we work closely with a number of organisations including Building Heroes, VETS (Veteran Employment Transition Support) and The Career Transition Partnership to actively promote and encourage those leaving the Armed Forces or serving as Reservists to consider a career in the construction industry.

“Those leaving the Armed Forces have a wealth of transferable skills which are extremely valuable to the construction industry and we work as mentors, offering work placements and training to help them adjust to civilian life and a new career in the sector.”

Chris concludes, “I would really recommend the industry and strongly encourage others to consider a career in construction. No two days are the same and you find it really rewarding seeing your project evolve each week. It’s great to know you have contributed to the end project. Once you have decided on this route, fully commit, keep standards high and be open minded and willing to learn.”


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