How Barclays is helping veterans find the right jobs
Barclays’ VETS programme is empowering service leavers and veterans to find jobs – and helping employers understand the value they bring to the workforce. We hear from programme lead and ex-Army officer, Lisa Marr, about why Barclays’ support for ex-forces individuals and their families is vital – especially during the coronavirus crisis.
Around 15,000 people leave the UK Armed Forces every year, many of whom are of working age and looking for a civilian ex-forces job. A big challenge for those making the transition is “articulating their transferable skills” and getting employers to “take a bit of a punt” on them, says Lisa Marr, an ex-Army officer who leads Barclays’ Veterans’ Employment Transition Support programme, known as VETS.
“Even in this day and age, there are some businesses that either don't approve of the military or are concerned about the bad, sad rhetoric we've had in the media for a long time that all veterans are homeless, alcoholics, drug addicts or have PTSD,” says Marr. “Part of my role is to go out and talk to businesses and assure them that's just not the case.”
Barclays’ work, she says, “encourages them to see the value that service leavers and veterans can bring to their workforce and helps them if they want to establish programmes for veterans, like ours”.
Veterans know that if they join our platform, the job listings they see are from armed forces-friendly businesses – and that their CVs won’t be filtered out
Barclays’ Veterans’ Employment Transition Support Programme Manager
Launched by Barclays five years ago, VETS is a free, collaborative employability initiative that brings together 170 partners – from across business, the charity sector and the Ministry of Defence – to improve access to jobs for ex-forces individuals. Its support ranges from peer-to-peer mentoring and CV workshops to access to listings for veteran-targeted jobs. Today, there are 5,000 veterans accessing the platform on a routine basis.
“Veterans know that if they join our platform, the job listings they see are from armed forces-friendly businesses – and that their CVs won’t be filtered out,” says Marr.
Launching military spouses into work
As a veteran herself, Marr has had to make the transition from military to civilian life. “I come from a naval background – but from the age of eight, I knew I wanted to join the Army and never changed my mind,” she says. Her time in the Army has seen her take postings all around the world, including in Germany, Canada, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and the UK.
After 16 years in the role, she made the decision to leave the regular Army. “I’d got married and had two little boys by then and I knew my next role was going to be one in Afghanistan. I just wasn’t prepared to do that anymore with little ones in tow.”
She went on to become Liaison Officer for the Mayor of Christchurch during the 2011 earthquake emergency in New Zealand, worked as a Community Manager at a school and then as the British Army’s Head of Engagement for Yorkshire and the Humber Region, helping to increase awareness of the opportunities available in the military to people of all backgrounds.
With a wealth of experience and on the lookout for “a fresh challenge”, in 2018 Marr found herself at a military careers insight day at Barclays. “The person running the VETS programme at the time had just put their notice in and asked if I’d be interested in the job. I applied and it all worked out,” she says.
In her first year in the role, Marr designed and launched a Military Spouses Employment Programme in collaboration with Barclays in Glasgow and Scottish Water. As part of the pilot programme, which ran for two weeks in October 2019, colleagues volunteered their time to run CV, interview and networking workshops for military spouses.
There are now over a thousand mentors who are all willing to help anyone who joins our platform
Barclays’ Veterans’ Employment Transition Support Programme Manager
“I’m hugely proud of this programme,” says Marr. “The vast majority of military spouses are women and they are the ones who do the childcare because they are moving around in support of their spouses. Often, they take quite long career breaks and as a result are at a slight disadvantage when they try to get back into the workforce.”
Reflecting on the success of the programme, she says: “At the start of the week, the women taking part were lacking in self-confidence and it was quite heart-breaking. We talked to them as human beings and taught life skills like self-awareness and how to get back into the workplace. By the end of the programme, their self-confidence was through the roof. Eight of them are now in employment – and I’m still working with some of the women to get them in the right place. It’s such a simple course in its construct, but it really delivers.”
While a second planned programme is on pause due to coronavirus, Marr and her team will be hosting a series of virtual coffee mornings in September.
Job hunting during the coronavirus crisis
The coronavirus crisis has proved a difficult time for many job seekers and struggling businesses – and veterans and VETS partners are no exception.
“There are very few events happening because very few people are hiring. It’s been a challenging time,” says Marr.
Despite this, the programme remains committed to helping service leavers into new work. “The vast majority of people, especially at the moment, just want to have a chat about who’s hiring, where the jobs are, in what sector and what our advice is. We work with them on all levels and try to provide whatever support they need.
“We’ve run a number of virtual events where we got a selection of partners to talk. One was specifically about businesses that are still hiring and another about how to make CVs stand out.”
And, Marr hopes, there may be new opportunities moving forward: “It’s about being honest with job seekers, looking for businesses that are hiring and encouraging them to come onto this programme. A lot of telephone companies, tech companies and startups are beginning to come on board – so there are still roles out there.
“Businesses are doing everything virtually during lockdown so they’re willing to give more time for online mentoring sessions. Our community is actually being serviced really well at the moment in terms of support.”
For Marr, these mentoring sessions are the “unique selling point” of VETS. “Barclays does an incredible thing in funding this programme. There’s no cost to service leavers or veterans, and there’s no cost for the businesses that join. It’s a life changing programme that they should be really proud of.
“The only ask is for those businesses to highlight the opportunity to provide mentors,” she says. “There are now over a thousand mentors who are all willing to help anyone who joins our platform. It’s an absolutely incredible service and, once people have landed a role and got settled in, a lot of them want to give back so they re-join the programme as a mentor.”
Marr’s hard work has not gone unnoticed. She recently won one of the WeAreTheCity Rising Star Awards 2020, which highlight female talent in the UK, and has been shortlisted for the Ex-Forces in Business Awards, which celebrate military veterans in second careers.
“I’m hugely flattered,” she says. “It’s opening up opportunities for me and the VETS programme to continue doing something for the community and to help other people progress.”