Perspectives

The value of ex-military personnel in the construction industry

3 min read

Paul Russell, Operations Director for Defence and Security, explains why people with military backgrounds are so highly valued at Mace.

Our growing ex-military community is something we’re incredibly proud of. We’re signed up to the Ministry of Defence’s Armed Forces Covenant, which commits us to supporting and valuing veterans and reservists, and we’re seeking to develop this community throughout 2019.

To realise this commitment, we work with support organisations, such as the Career Transition Partnership (CTP), which helps ex-military personnel transition into civilian working life. Collaboration with organisations like CTP is essential to ensuring that veterans and reservists are placed in the best roles for them and their employers.    

There are construction roles suited to ex-military personnel of most backgrounds and ranks. However, speaking recently to Nic Farmer, a Mace Senior Project Manager and former Wing Commander in the Royal Air Force, it’s clear that, aside from specific roles, the values, ethos, and underlying principles of the construction industry can be equally important. He told me:

“Throughout my time in the RAF I drew a sense of pride and accomplishment from knowing that the work I did made a tangible difference and that the world was, in some small way, a better place as a result of my efforts. This can be a real motivator for military personnel. Being part of a Mace team that delivers significant and enduring projects that benefit communities at home and abroad provides a similar sense of accomplishment”

By growing our ex-military community, we’ll help to support veterans into work and we’ll benefit from their unique skill sets. Indeed, the skills possessed by people with a military background are exceptional. This is, in part, a by-product of the rigorous training they go through so they’re ready to carry out military operations at any given moment.

Being in the military provides an almost unparalleled depth and breadth of personal professional experience. Service men and women often have to improvise to overcome unexpected, complex and pressurised scenarios. Improvisation drives innovation and we need more of both in the construction industry.   

In addition to their superb technical skills and procedural awareness (e.g. health and safety), there are common attitudinal traits that translate well into the construction industry. Ex-military people often exhibit exemplary leadership capabilities, and the substantial training they’re accustomed to drives a hunger to question and learn; something the whole construction industry can do more of.

“Leadership at all levels” is something Nic Farmer sees as a standout trait in ex-military personnel. He says this leadership capability breeds trust and translates into early responsibility for new joiners at Mace, while colleagues are always on hand to help support with technical expertise.

Ex-military personnel are realistic and pragmatic problem solvers who want to ‘get stuff done’. This allows them to grasp the scale of a challenge, plan an appropriate solution, and honestly manage client expectations in this context. Over promising – a common challenge across supply chains in the construction industry – does not align with the military ethos.   

They also tend to get to the point, which makes them clear, concise and articulate when explaining all of this.

Of all the skills ex-military personnel bring to the construction industry, working well in a team is the most valued. This was a key finding of a 2016 industry survey conducted by Buildforce and the Chartered Institute of Building, and it rings true at Mace.

We’re a people-based organisation; a team of like-minded people with a genuine desire to do what’s right. It is the strength of our people working together that drives our success. That’s why we’re such a good fit for ex-military personnel and reservists and why we welcome more of them into our team.

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