April was another busy but uplifting month as I met with some of Scotland’s leading veterans support organisations to hear about their successes and impact.
At the beginning of the month, I was welcomed to the Scottish Veterans Residences’ Whitefoord House accommodation on the Royal Mile. It was great to speak with some of the veterans staying at the supported housing facility and hear how they are benefiting from the support being offered by the charity as well as the opportunity to spend time with peers. I had a good meeting with chair George Lowder and CEO Martin Nadin on what the organisation perceives as the challenges and goals for the year ahead, and how it will navigate and achieve these. One thing that struck me was their desire for collaboration between organisations. This makes complete sense and in this day of inter-connectivity must be the right way forward for the collective benefits of our veterans – there is an excellent example of this later in this blog with the Unforgotten Forces Consortium.
Later in the month I had the chance to speak to over 400 veterans who attended the Careers Transition Partnership (CTP) Employment Fair at Murrayfield on 25 April. The event is a fantastic opportunity for both employers and ex-Forces jobseekers alike. We all know that the ex-Services talent pool is rich with a vast array of experience and skills, from transferable soft skills such as team work and communication to hard skills and qualifications in areas including engineering and project management.
I hope I encouraged those attending to seize the opportunities presented by the fair. The doors have been opened for them – it is now up to them to walk through and grab the opportunities presented. I am told that businesses are crying out for decent, hard-working individuals who have that balance of soft and hard skills. That should fit every veteran of working age, so my strong recommendation is to just get out there and sell themselves! There is more work to be done to get the private sector to understand the talent that is there waiting for them and I intend to do that by engaging with the various private sector bodies such as the Chambers of Commerce and the CBI.
Aside from being a strong networking opportunity, the fair also provided a good source of information and guidance, including recruitment processes of key employers and more general advice on jobseeking, careers and education.
I was also honoured to be asked to speak at the Unforgotten Forces conference, which examined the work of the partnership over the last 18 months. This consortium of 16 organisations led by Poppyscotland, offers a single point of contact for veterans over 65, whether they are seeking support on finance, health or social isolation. This ability to access a wide range of support with one phone call encourages older veterans and their families to come forward and it offers a holistic approach which can help ensure none of their needs go unidentified.
Since the launch, the Unforgotten Forces project has delivered over 7,000 episodes of support and recently took home the Working Together Award at the 2019 Soldiering On Awards. Its success typifies the strength of this type of partnership working, with the alignment of expertise, effort and resources towards common goals leading to maximum impact for the veterans community. It’s also a great way for smaller organisations to support each other in the valuable work they do and expand their individual reach through collective outreach. I look forward to seeing Unforgotten Forces continue to build on its success and I hope this collaborative approach will inspire others in the sector to consider working in this way.
In addition to catching up with support services, I’ve been continuing to liaise with Scottish Government Ministers and their teams to assess the progress made against the recommendations we have set out to them over the past four years. I am now finalising my findings and determining how they will shape our future approach, and I look forward to sharing this with you all soon.