Businesses in Coventry and Warwickshire are being urged to work more closely with the Armed Forces to help solve a recruitment crisis in industry.
The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce held a joint event with the West Midland Reserve Forces & Cadets Association (West Midland RFCA) at an Army Reserve Centre in Canley to discuss how firms could work collaboratively with the Armed Forces in the region.
The event, hosted by Chamber chief executive Corin Crane, heard how businesses can also encourage and support individuals who make up the Reserve Forces.
Corin, Richard Maybery of the West Midland RFCA, and Major Felicity Taylor, Executive Officer of 159 Supply Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, provided background to the event. Followed by a panel discussion involving Kent Thompson from Pertemps; Colonel Delroy Tucker from Warwickshire & West Midlands (North Sector) Army Cadet Force, Private Tayyabah Husain and Major Jess Marengo, Officer Commanding 118 Recovery Company.
Corin said: “I’ve never known a time like it when businesses are finding it so hard to recruit good people.
“As part of our work on the Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP), we’ve spoken to over 1,000 companies in recent weeks and the message is stark. Recruitment issues are the biggest barrier to growth.
“Lots of over-50s have left the workforce, there are more mental health issues than ever in the under-30 age bracket and parents are being put off returning to work because of childcare costs.
“So, the pool of people that businesses can attract has shrunk and, yet, we have – quite literally – an army of workers who can offer incredible skills and amazing standards and values.
“And, on the other side of the coin, our Armed Forces need Reservists and they need the support of their employers to be able to commit to training opportunities and exercises.
“On top of that, there are personnel who are leaving the forces who would make incredible employees for firms and it’s yet another avenue to solving the skills and recruitment crisis.”
In the first instance, businesses are asked to sign the Armed Forces Covenant, which is a pledge of support to the forces, including Reservists.
But, from there, they are encouraged to have dialogue with West Midland RFCA around how they can work together.
Major Taylor said: “We are looking to build the capacity of our Reservists and, in return, those individuals get some incredible training opportunities that would, ordinarily, cost businesses thousands of pounds.
“The confidence, the technical skills, the leadership skills and the values and standards that emerge are a huge asset to any employer, and Reservists can take part in some amazing experiences and give back to the community and the country.”
The audience heard how Pertemps had established a specialist department to help place forces personnel into businesses. It also learned of real-life examples of how Reservists balance employment with their military duties and the standards they live by.
Corin said: “This isn’t something we are going to solve or conclude today but I believe it is so important for businesses and the West Midland RFCA to keep the conversation going.
“If we get this right, it can be mutually-beneficial for everyone.”