Championing life after the military

We speak to CLA members who have found opportunities at rural businesses after leaving the armed forces and have given former veterans the platform to take their next steps
Mike Treffry PJHQ 2022
Mike Treffry, Operations Director at Woodhall Estate, is keen to pass on his experience to those making their own transition out of the military

When Lieutenant Colonel Mike Treffry left the armed forces in 2022 following a 23-year career, he explored a variety of opportunities.

“During the last six months of your military career you shift into a transition phase to help support the move from the forces to civilian life,” he explains. “Having served as a royal engineer officer, there were many different aspects to my role. I always thought I would leave having worked out what I was going to do next first. In reality, I had no idea.”

This is a fairly common experience for former service personnel. Having looked at different roles - from a school bursar and working in the NHS to financial services and insurance - Mike found networking a crucial part of his transition. This, along with the support provided by the MOD’s Career Transition Partnership, allowed him to explore different career areas.

“I reached out to other veterans to ask about their experiences and find out more about their roles. I didn’t come into the transition process with a particular fixed view. I was open as to what I would do next.”

It is in this networking space that Mike believes the rural sector could benefit from increased representation. “I didn’t have a lot of exposure to the opportunities offered by the rural sector, and if I did see anything, I probably ruled myself out because I didn’t come from a rural background. However, the experience veterans gain from their military career make them extremely employable in this area.”

Mike was keen to invest in his new career, but soon discovered his role at a London insurance company wasn’t the right fit. It was at this point he came across his current role as Operations Director at Woodhall Estate. He says: “I always thought that operations might be a good area for me, so I explored the role further. It’s only because Thomas Abel Smith, Managing Director of Woodhall Estate, decided to advertise the role with the Forces Employment Charity that I saw it. I am grateful that he took the decision to look to the veteran community to fill this role.”

Mike is keen for more rural businesses to engage with veterans. He says: “The one thing veterans can offer rural businesses is their breadth of experience. Even if they’ve been working in quite a specialised area, they would also have substantial team working experience, plus leadership and management skills, and a willingness to learn, which are desirable traits for rural jobs.”

His advice for rural businesses wanting to benefit from the value offered by former military personnel is to look beyond their CV. “A veteran’s CV will look a bit different to standard CVs, and they may not translate very well. I would ask businesses to invite any veteran who applies for a job to offer them an interview because in person they will likely present themselves much better than on a CV. I would also say don’t be put off if a veteran doesn’t have the hard skills required because they will bring a valuable range of soft skills, which are really hard to get hold of. Veterans also have funding to help with training and the savings from the employer NI savings for veterans in their first year can help offset any training costs.”

As a CLA Veterans Champion, Mike is keen to pass on his experience to those making their own transition.

I passionately believe the rural sector has a lot to offer veterans, and veterans have lots to offer the rural sector; it’s a balanced partnership

Mike Treffry

“Transitioning from the military is extremely daunting. I was incredibly appreciative of all the people who supported me and I would like to do the same to other veterans. By sharing my experience, I can support others take their next step. I’ve had such a positive experience at Woodhall Estate that I want to champion the rural sector as a great place for veterans to come and work.”

Rural business perspective

Clinton Devon Estates has had close ties with the military for many years. Royal Marine recruits have undertaken commando recruit training on the estate’s Pebblebed Heaths (Woodbury Common) in East Devon since the 1940s, and Chief Executive John Varley OBE spent 22 years as an officer in the Territorial Army, Royal Artillery.

As an employer, the estate is keen to benefit from the value former military personnel offer. John says: “The rural sector offers all sorts of fulfilling careers. As an employer, we want to have a diverse workforce. Not only do we want to recruit people locally and provide opportunities to younger people, but also to those who have served their country and are looking to take the next steps in a civilian career.

“Over the years, we’ve had a number of positions that have fitted military backgrounds, such as estate manager and wildlife ranger. However, it is important to not just think about the usual outdoor roles. Veterans have many transferable skills in leadership, man management, solving complex problems, so there’s potential for individuals to take on many other roles, too. Our head of commercial property is an ex-Royal Navy officer, for example. What appeals to us about former military personnel is their unflappability, integrity, resilience and positive mindset.

“I would encourage prospective employers to develop their understanding of the value veterans offer and build relationships with the forces so they can offer veterans roles when they leave.”

Don’t assume that there is no place for a military veteran in your organisation – there probably is

John Varley OBE

Veterans Initiative

Find out how you can get involved with the CLA’s Veterans Initiative