Armed forces veterans are benefiting from schemes set up by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to help them start a new career and tackle homelessness.
There are about 76,000 veterans currently living in the West Midlands, with those of working age nearly twice as likely to be unemployed than their equivalents in the general UK population.
The WMCA is also working with Government to identify and support veterans who are, or are at risk of becoming, homeless.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said:
On Remembrance Day we will be publicly recognising the sacrifices made by our armed forces in the two World Wars and subsequent wars since. It’s vital that we ensure this act of remembrance remains relevant, and that today’s veterans are given the practical support and help they need.
The transition from military to civilian life can be daunting for many, especially for the first six months following the return from the armed forces. This is often the time individuals can spiral into unemployment and all the secondary problems associated with that, such as homelessness. It’s our duty to help veterans make that transition and find suitable work, making sure they don’t miss out on the new opportunities that are coming to the region.”
One example of how the WMCA is helping veterans start new careers is through its innovative Construction Gateway programme, which is delivered by local training companies. This provides learners with an introduction to construction skills – giving them the ‘tickets’ they need to be site-ready for work – and, crucially, guarantees them a job interview on completion of the course.
Learners are unemployed and referred to the Gateway via their JobCentre, and get help with interview techniques, CV writing and employability skills. After completing the course, all learners are supported on their journey to work through the National Careers Service for as long as they need, regardless of whether their first interview is a success. Those who are not offered a job immediately are added to the West Midlands “site-ready talent pool” – which is shared with construction recruiters and provides a list of people who are ready for work immediately.
Armed forces veteran Martin Walker, from Redditch, is now working on the HS2 site at Cubbington, Warwickshire, for Five Rivers Environmental, thanks to training provided by RMF Construction Services through the Construction Gateway.
Construction is a great next step for anyone who has been in the military. The training funded by the WMCA was really good and my employer has been very impressed with how I have adjusted to my new job. I encountered an intruder on site and followed advice from HS2 to the letter on how to handle this. As a result, the site manager praised my actions as an example of best practice in the company.”
So far, 1,081 people have been through Construction Gateway training since summer 2018, with 487 people having a successful interview after completing the course.
The WMCA is also working with the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government to help identify local veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
Over the next year, the WMCA and its partners will be helping to move homeless veterans into supported accommodation and ensure they have the physical and mental health care they need to start a new career.
To sign up for construction training, talk to your local JobCentre or contact the National Careers Service West Midlands on 0121 296 5550, or you can find out more information about the National Careers Service via https://nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk/ or by calling 0800 100 900.