Adjusting to civilian work after a life serving in the military can be difficult, and Ed Pashley knows this better than most.
An estimated 16,000 people leave the armed forces each year and they all face different challenges when it comes to transitioning into civilian life. Some may find that process easy, but many find the differences between military and civilian work significant.
Now working as an analyst for Virgin Money, Pashley previously served in the British Army for 22 years. He completed numerous tours of duty in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq but when he left the military he found it difficult to settle into gainful civilian employment.
“I worked unpaid for another company for a number of months and I was travelling from one end of the south coast to the other,” he explains. “It wasn’t until I was picked up by Virgin Money and given an opportunity with them that my life started to come together again.”
When Pashley first started working for Virgin Money in 2014, he and 11 other ex-forces colleagues would meet once a month to offer mutual support to one another as they transitioned into civilian life. This group has developed over the years and is now known as Vets@Virgin and focuses on supporting veterans and people currently serving in the forces in many different ways.
The team has organised work placements for service personnel, including those injured in service, to help them understand more about civilian work. They’ve also worked with the Officers Association and the Career Transition Partnership to deliver insight days and establish tailored employment pathways for service leavers and veterans into the financial services.
But Pashley is keen to point out that this isn’t about giving veterans a hand out, or using them simply to tick boxes and fill seats. Veterans are useful to the business. They bring a host of transferable skills, including diligence and communication abilities, with them when they leave the armed forces. “Half the battle is getting the service leaver to recognise those skills,” Pashley says – and that’s why the work that Vets@Virgin is doing is important.
At Virgin we talk about being part of the Virgin family, and that means looking after our people
Beyond helping veterans into civilian work, Virgin Money has committed to supporting people connected to the armed forces in a number of ways, whether they’re Volunteer Reservists or a family member of someone currently serving. Virgin Money’s Armed Forces Covenant sets out how the business will support people with connection to the armed forces, including paid training leave for Reservists and endeavouring to support requests for annual leave where possible before, during and after a family member has undertaken a period of deployment.
“When their partners go on operations, there’s a lot of pressure on them so we aim to support them wherever we can,” Pashley says.
“When you’re in the army, or any armed force, you’re in a tribe. But when you leave and you’re working for a company, you’re suddenly seen as an individual and you’ve lost that group identity. But at Virgin we talk about being part of a tribe, part of the Virgin family, and that means looking after our people.”
Members of the Vets@Virgin team, and other colleagues from Virgin Money, have also volunteered their time to work with Launchpad, a charity that provides accommodation for veterans who have become homeless or suffered from poverty, unemployment, mental or physical illness. Virgin Money has provided debt management advice and workshops on CV writing for Launchpad’s service users and Virgin Money employees even helped refurbish the charity’s Avondale House residence.
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson says that business should be seen as a force for good within the community. Pashley says he and his Vets@Virgin team have simply added the word ‘veterans’ in there. “We use what we’re given by Virgin, the charity days, the time, the skills and the force that we can generate to do good within the veterans community.”