A Nuneaton-based social enterprise is smoothing the way for business to benefit from the vast range of skills held by former military personnel.
British Forces Resettlement Services (BFRS) based at the Warwickshire County Council-run Centenary Business Centre in Nuneaton, has been set up to connect ex-military personnel with potential employers – to their mutual benefit.
Last year more than 15,000 people left the armed forces – collectively making a huge array of skills and expertise newly-available to the job market. But for some ex-members of the forces, despite them being well-equipped to offer much to potential employers, the process of readjusting to civilian life after, in some cases, many years in the military, brings its challenges.
BFRS is the brainchild of founder Harry Dean who himself served in the army for 30 years. Originally from Hertfordshire, he was first posted to Gamecock Barracks in Nuneaton in 1968 and has since served his country all over the world, including in Northern Ireland and the Gulf.
Harry says: “Basically we are here to provide an all-embracing, easy-to-access focal point where the Armed Forces Community and the commercial world can engage. Businesses locally have been very receptive to what we do but there is an awful lot more that can be done for the benefit of both the businesses and the ex-military personnel. I think there is still a perception in some quarters that people coming out of the military are only qualified to work in security. That’s miles from the truth.
“In the forces people are trained to a very high level in all sorts of specialised areas like engineering and I.T. They have loads of transferable skills and also the disciplines that any employer wants from his or her workforce – punctuality, reliability, commitment.
“What they do not have is that background in the wider business world so that’s where we come in. We show them the options while also bringing their talents to the attention of the business world.”
BRFS is a not-for-profit which ploughs all revenues back into the business.
When BFRS’ growth demanded bigger premises, Harry was pleased to find the perfect solution virtually on his doorstep at the Centenary Centre.
“It is a very good base for us,” Harry says. “We have 12 staff now, so needed somewhere bigger and better-equipped and the Centenary Centre is just the job. Lisa Smullen and her team are really helpful and look after us very well and of course Nuneaton is so centrally-located that we have great access to the transport network which is very important as we hold quite a lot of roadshows and exhibit at events around the country.”
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, leader of Warwickshire County Council and portfolio holder for economic growth, said: “Warwickshire County Council is committed to helping new firms start-up, develop and grow. BFRS is a social enterprise set up to help the Armed Forces community through their transition to civilian life and beyond and we are delighted BFRS has found our Centenary Centre such a supportive base to grow the enterprise. We hope many more people will be inspired to turn a good idea into a flourishing business.”
Cllr Bob Stevens, President of the Royal British Legion and Chair of the Sub Regional Armed Forces Community Covenant Partnership, said: “We know people leaving the Armed Forces need more support than just the brief time around leaving the Services. BFRS provides valuable assistance people who have served in the Armed Forces helping them to resettle into civilian life and utilise their talents and skills in a productive way for the benefit of both themselves and the community.”
Warwickshire County Council has three managed business centres and a further five stand alone leased units providing flexible and affordable space for small businesses. Council managed business centres: Centenary Business Centre; Sir Frank Whittle Business Centre and Eliot Park Innovation centre. Stand alone leased units: Bermuda Innovation Centre; Church Lawford Business Centre; Hammond Business Centre; Pool Road Business Centre and Smallbrook Business Centre. For more information about the Business Centres: http://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/businesscentres
BFRS services are open to service leavers, reserve forces, veterans and civilian MoD employees as well as partners and families – irrespective of for how long or how long ago they served.