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Forces in Mind trust has recently carried out a study into the question of Forces Leavers starting up their own business upon getting out: ie. becoming self-employed. Forces in Mind is not a charity that works to support individuals. It is more of a “think-tank” group that looks at various issues that affect Service personnel as they transition from military to civilian life and tries to inform and influence decisions made by organisations such as the Government, MOD or local councils etc when they legislate and/or make provision for Veterans. This article provides extracts from the Forces in Mind study to give a feel for the sort of background work being done to improve support for the self-employed Leaver. 
The following extracts are taken from the study and also the Forces in Mind website with their permission. 
Firstly a bit about the Trust.
FiMT came about from a partnership between the Big Lottery Fund (‘the Fund’), Cobseo (The Confederation of Service Charities) and other charities and organisations. FiMT continues the Fund’s long-standing legacy of support for veterans across the UK with an endowment of £35 million awarded in 2012. http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/.

 

 The mission of FiMT is to enable ex-Service personnel and their families make a successful and sustainable transition to civilian life, and it delivers this mission by generating an evidence base that influences and underpins policy making and service delivery.

Ultimately our beneficiaries are all ex-Service personnel and their families, although in the main we support them indirectly through front-line organisations and policymakers. We are not concerned with strict definitions of Veteran, Family or Transition, preferring instead to look at the overall context and how people see themselves, albeit within the boundary of our charitable objects.
FiMT considers transition around six outcomes (below) as the component parts of success.  Although shown as individual outcomes here, we fully appreciate they are interconnected.  All outcomes consider ex-Service personnel and their families.
OutcomeWhat this means to us
HousingHousing that provides the essentials of shelter, safety, and support.
EmploymentEngaged in the employment of choice eg full/part-time, self/not employed, volunteering, or a combination.  (Education, qualifications, and skills are considered here.)
Health and WellbeingA condition of physical and mental health and wellbeing, where any issues are appropriately identified, treated/managed.
FinanceFinancially sustainable and resilient.
Criminal Justice SystemNot in the criminal justice system.
RelationshipsSupportive family, social and professional networks and relationships.

The Trust looks to support work that can influence across the UK. We recognise that often it is small, regionally-based initiatives that can produce the most profound and innovative effect, and we will always work with grant and commission holders to develop their plans to ensure that the evidence generated is exploited to its fullest potential. Likewise, we are not shy in advocating our recommendations to the most senior policymakers in the country.

The Study: Self-employment and the Armed Forces Community

This new report, ‘Self-employment and the Armed Forces Community’, has revealed the barriers ex-Service personnel face in becoming self-employed after leaving the Armed Forces.

Research conducted by The Institute for Employment Research at the University of Warwick, supported by defence technology company QinetiQ and X-Forces Enterprise (XFE) – which supports entrepreneurship in the military community – and funded by Forces in Mind Trust, was carried out to understand what more could be done to support ex-Service personnel successfully move into self-employment.

The findings show that self-employment is highly desirable among veterans, with being their own boss the most attractive aspect. However, many veterans become self-employed years after leaving the Services, often as a result of disillusionment with their experiences in paid civilian employment. The survey of veterans, targeted towards those who had already moved into self-employment or had considered it upon leaving, and those currently transitioning into civilian life, found that 43% of veterans said they had planned to become self-employed on leaving the Forces, compared to 55% who said they’d seek full-time employment.

However, the research also highlights a number of barriers to the ex-Service community face in becoming successfully self-employed including:

  • A lack of understanding of commercial environments and skills like marketing and communications
  • Lack of finance – with many experiencing difficulties in getting loans and having to use their own savings
  • Difficulty translating the skills they learned in the Forces into a commercial environment
  • Difficulty adapting to a civilian environment – where there was considered to be less teamwork and an overarching focus on money
  • Reality falling short of expectations – with some finding it much harder than expected

The report points to the need for better support, information and advice from the Ministry of Defence (MOD) as Service personnel transition out of the Armed Forces – about the realities and practicalities of working in the civilian labour market.

Asked when support would be most useful, six months before leaving the Armed Forces and two years after leaving were seen as the most crucial times – showing the importance of having long-term support to ensure the transition succeeds.

The report calls on the MOD to invest more resources into supporting members of the Armed Forces in transitioning successfully into the civilian labour market, and particularly into being self-employed. This includes the suggestion of a ‘skills for life’ package for all veterans which gives support on how to pay bills, buy a house, manage finances and tax, as well as training in soft skills, people skills and commercial skills. It also calls for wider use of mentors, the wider promotion of Enhanced Learning Credits to ensure veterans are aware of their entitlements; and for longer-term support including access to top-up training up to 24 months after leaving.

Air Vice-Marshal Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust said:

“What is clear from this report is the need for broader support, advice and practical training for Service personnel before they leave the Armed Forces, and for sometime afterwards, if they are to successfully transition into the civilian labour market, and particularly into self-employment. This report contains a number of ideas of how the MOD and others can provide such support and we look forward to working together to take some of these ideas forward, such as through the recently announced Defence Transition Service.”

Professor Clare Lyonette from the Institute of Employment Research at the University of Warwick said:

Military service develops unique skills and competencies which can underpin a successful transition into self-employment. However, our research participants reported a range of challenges which they encountered while trying to translate their skills into a civilian context. 
The barriers and challenges reported to us highlight the need for a targeted, needs-based approach to support in transition – not all veterans will require the same levels of help. We hope that the practical recommendations we outline will make a real difference to all members of the Armed Forces Community, including military partners and reservists, as well as veterans.”

Ren Kapur MBE, CEO and Founder of X-Forces Enterprise said:

We’ve seen the incredible impact that self-employment can have on veterans and are proud of the work we’ve been carrying out for five years to empower ex-service men and women to reach their full potential. This research shows that challenges remain, but we were incredibly encouraged to see how many of the recommendations made are already being taken forward by organisations like ours. We welcome this in-depth look at the challenges faced by potential entrepreneurs, and look forward to helping even more veterans in the years to come.

The research includes a full literature review looking at international comparisons and available data, as well as fresh qualitative and quantitative research with veterans, military partners and reservists.

You can read the report here.

 

Useful links

Website: www.fim-trust.org

Reports: www.fim-trust.org/reports/

Who we have helped: www.fim-trust.org/who-we-have-helped/

Twitter: @FiMTrust

About the Mental Health Research Programme

About the Institute for Employment Research (IER):

Established in 1981, the Warwick Institute for Employment Research (IER) is a leading international social science research centre. Its research is interdisciplinary and made relevant to policy makers and practitioners. It is renowned for consistently delivering high quality research. Research questions are tackled in projects funded by a range of public and private sector organisations and through publications in academic journals. IER has built a considerable reputation for its expertise in a broad range of research fields around the labour market and its relationships with the wider economy. The web address for IER

About X-Forces Enterprise (XFE)

XFE is an award-winning business support initiative, is the leading organisation for enterprise in the Armed Forces community. In the past five years, they have supported over 1,250 community members in starting and scaling up their own businesses, and thousands more through training events and business advice. www.x-forces.com

 

Main text and all images courtesy of Forces in Mind

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