Monday, 26 November 2012

Veterans Interview Programme

As someone with a brother in the military it is important that we all find new ways to support our Forces.  

For me politics is not about what I wear or which jungle i'm in; its about standing up for people and ensuring the country balances its books, its about fighting residents' causes, representing their interest and standing your ground. 

One of those areas which comes personally to my heart is the military; mainly as my family are connected through the Navy; and because of the history of Chatham and associated towns as a centre for Navy and Army activity for centuries that has been ingrained in me since I was Primary School in Medway.

We should start by recognising that the experience of Service creates not just brilliant soldiers, but also great citizens who have much to give to our country.

In July Labour launched a new scheme in which companies voluntarily guarantee an interview for job-seeking ex-Forces, the Veterans Interview Programme (VIP).  

Leading Medway employers, including o2, Aldi, Greggs and Centrica, have signed up to the scheme that will, we hope, be part of a cultural shift in which we give greater recognition to the skills Service-leavers can bring to the workplace and increase opportunities for those returning from the frontline.

The opposition has since been working with the Department for Work and Pensions to make this a national scheme and this is now being rolled out across the country, with job centres given guidance as to how to support employers in implementing the scheme, encouraging others to take it up and linking veterans seeking with participating businesses.

Servicemen and women’s struggles, sacrifices and courage do not end when they leave the battlefield.  Our solution is not preferential treatment, but rather ensuring there is a level playing field for Service-leavers to provide for a family or put their children through education.  At the centre of that is employment.

It is a matter of cross-party agreement that it is wrong that someone who has served in Afghanistan is expected to join the back of the queue at the local job centre, and with thousands being sacked during the recession this Government’s actions are making things harder for veterans.

The talents of those leaving the military can be a big asset to business.  Service provides people with the organisational, team-building, leadership, quick-thinking skills which are ideal in the workplace. The ability to act under pressure is as important in business as it is on the frontline.  We want to increase awareness of the transferable skills and talents which military people can use in civilian life.

The VIP initiative has brought business and service people together, matching experience and skills with business needs. The commitment shown by participating companies in the current climate only underlines our country’s respect and goodwill towards the Service community.  This scheme is voluntary and valuable, and I hope all parties, charities and many businesses will get involved.

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