FORMER military personnel could contribute more than a billion pounds to the UK economy over the next five years if employers wake up and appreciate the value they could bring to business.

It is estimated that up to 85,000 people will leave the forces by 2021. While many veterans make a successful transition to civilian employment, the study predicts 10 per cent will experience long-term unemployment, and a further 12 per cent will be sub-optimally employed (where their skills are being under-utilised).

Barclays says this could cost the economy £1.5 billion. It says employers that overlook former forces personnel when recruiting are failing to recognise the valuable skills and experience of a cohort of highly talented individuals.

Loading article content

It’s a view shared by veterans Alex McDivitt and Tommy Watt, who both served with the British Army for 22 years and completed operational tours in Northern Ireland, the Balkans and the Middle East. Their vision is to support fellow veterans through business.

They have made a success of life since leaving the army, but know from experience that it’s hard to make the return to civvy street – which is why they decided to create a business with a military theme that would provide a comfort zone the veterans could relate to; somewhere they know they’ll be understood and where the processes, tasks and day to day activities reflect the lifestyle they’re used to.

The duo launched a brewing company – Veterans Brewing – in Coatbridge with an ambitious plan to employ hundreds of veterans at a brewing and bottling plant in each of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“As veterans, we’re painfully aware of the need to support ex-services personnel who retire or are invalided out into civilian life,” said McDivitt.

“Veterans Brewing Golden Ale is a craft beer specifically designed to help raise awareness of the plight of our veterans and the need to generate employment for them. In addition, a donation from every bottle sold goes to veterans charities.”

According to Watt, the future for many veterans is bleak, and the statistics paint a harsh picture of suicides, unemployment, and criminal activity. “There were 50 suicides last year, 29 veterans and 21 service personnel, and 10 per cent of the UK’s prison population is made up of veterans,” he said. “We want to help address these issues and offer support, a lifeline, to veterans and their families.”

Nicholas Trowell, co-chair of the Barclays Armed Forces Transition, Employment & Resettlement (AFTER) Programme in Scotland, said: “A career in the military has many similarities to that in the commercial sector, yet some employers are still underestimating the value of veterans’ skills.

“This research underlines the importance of thinking beyond experience in order to plug crucial vacancies with capable individuals.”

Michelle Rodger is a communications consultant