Life beyond the military

The rural sector offers career opportunities for ex-military personnel. The CLA’s Sarah Wells-Gaston finds out how HighGround is helping those leaving active service move towards a new career
Logging worker sawing tree logs

Each year, more than 14,000 skilled individuals leave the armed forces, ready to enter the civilian workforce. With labour shortages a major challenge for land-based businesses, the attributes of ex-service personnel and veterans are highly desirable.

Recognising the value military personnel offer to land-based businesses, the CLA became the first national rural trade association to sign the Armed Forces Covenant. In doing so, it showed a commitment to link up with organisations that support military veterans when they leave the forces.

One such organisation is HighGround, and the national military charity has been given CLA membership, recognising its role and support for the veterans community as the Association begins to deliver its veterans initiative.

Finding new careers

Founded in 2013 by Anna Baker Cresswell, the charity aims to improve the wellbeing and employment prospects of serving personnel and veterans. She saw there was a lack of support and advice for those transitioning to civilian life who wanted to work outdoors.

There are a multitude of skills that service leavers have that are fundamental to rural jobs

HighGround Chief Executive, Jamie Crisp

“Our aim is to support them and help them find new careers in agriculture and the wider land-based sector,” says Jamie.

One of HighGround’s initiatives is its rural week programme, which comprises three pathways, including its virtual rural week and residential rural week. “Virtual rural week aims to open the eyes of service personnel and veterans to the opportunities within the land-based sector, from arable and livestock to agri-tech and land-based teaching,” says Jamie. “We hope once they can contextualise this they will consider coming to our rural residential week.”

Hosted by Bicton College and Askham Bryan, these courses combine classroom presentations and visits. “The aim is to help attendees make informed decisions using the skills they have as to how they transition out of the services,” says Jamie. “By the end of the week, attendees hopefully have a clearer idea of which path they want to take, whether it be horticulture, arable farming or arboriculture.”

Jamie hopes HighGround can expand its delivery model over the next two years, including widening its circle of influence with organisations such as the CLA to support volunteering and work experience opportunities.

“Service leavers have the time to do voluntary experience or work experience,” he adds. “When they do these experiences, more often than not, businesses really see the value they offer, and recognise that with further training, coupled with the right qualifications, they would be a really strong employee. We encourage those who work in the sector to consider how they can help - whether it be work experience or coming and speaking to personnel about the opportunities available – so we can help people truly prepare for the next phase of the career.”

Get involved and find out more about HighGround’s work here.

Veterans Initiative

Discover more about the CLA’s Veteran’s Initiative