Veterans: Civilian Workforce

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th March 2017.

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Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Industrial Strategy) 12:00 am, 13th March 2017

What assessment he has made of the adequacy of support available to veterans entering the civilian workforce.

Photo of Mark Lancaster Mark Lancaster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

The Department’s career transition partnership provides a robust and effective system to support service personnel entering the civilian workforce. The CTP provides one-to-one advice and guidance, and training and employment opportunities to about 15,000 service personnel each year.

Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Industrial Strategy)

It is entirely unacceptable that the unemployment rate for veterans should be a third higher than that for non-veterans. Service personnel have told me that they might find it difficult to translate their important experience on the battlefield into the softer skills that industry requires today, such as teamwork, management and communication skills. What is the Minister specifically doing to address that point?

Photo of Mark Lancaster Mark Lancaster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

I have no idea where the hon. Lady gets her facts from and I am slightly worried that we seem to be talking veterans down again. As a result of the CTP, some 85% of our service personnel find employment within six months—some 10% higher than the figure for the UK population as a whole.

Photo of Andrew Stephenson Andrew Stephenson Conservative, Pendle

Service leavers have been highly trained and possess highly transferable skills which add value to any company in the civilian world. What more can be done to ensure that civilian employers understand the value of former service personnel?

Photo of Mark Lancaster Mark Lancaster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

This is exactly where the armed forces covenant comes in and it shows why we must be so careful in this House when we seem determined sometimes to talk our veterans down. The sorts of skill sets that they can bring to civilian companies are very valuable, and this is something we absolutely enforce now that some 95% of our recruits join an apprenticeship scheme.

Photo of Gerald Jones Gerald Jones Shadow Minister (Wales)

Our veterans are some of the most hard-working, dedicated and experienced men and women any employer could ask for, yet many of us have heard troubling stories of discrimination against former servicemen and women in the jobs market. Does the Minister agree with the Labour party that we should act to make discrimination against the forces community illegal, in order to protect our veterans and service personnel from any prejudice they may face?

Photo of Mark Lancaster Mark Lancaster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the Dispatch Box, and could not agree more with his opening comments—perhaps he needs to educate some of his colleagues about that. This is precisely why we have the armed forces covenant. At this early stage, we are trying through that mechanism to ensure that the value of our veterans is fully understood by wider society.