The transition from the Australian Defence Force to the civilian workforce is a daunting experience. Many veterans experience stress, loneliness and an unsure future for themselves and their family. Naturally, this can cause additional anxiety during the transition period, as veterans lose the close bond of mateship, the comfort of routines and rituals, and the security of Defence life.
I recently transitioned to civilian life after 35 years in the Defence Force, during which I completed tours of East Timor and the United Arab Emirates, in various non-combat logistic, finance and management roles. I was also involved in many military exercises around Australia.
During the early years in my career, I worked in the discharge, many serving members told me that one day they just woke up and something inside them said they had served their country long enough and it was time to move on with their life. I was no different. One morning, just like that, I decided to discharge from the Defence Force. But not everyone is so lucky. There are many veterans who, for various reasons, are discharged from the Defence Force before they are ready, exacerbating the stress and uncertainty of transitioning to a civilian life.
Once I chose to discharge, I began to get a sense of what it was like for the 5,500 people who leave the Australian armed forces every year, with most seeking a new career. I too would question what this major life changing decision would mean for my family’s future. I had to consider a new career, location to live, housing, retraining, focus and self-motivation, insurances, friendships, work and lifestyle routines, and a whole new civilian world where you can call your bosses by their first name.
I quickly learned that understanding and guidance with real opportunities and training is what veterans need most through this transition. The community, Australian industry, and veteran and family support partnerships like that of Soldier On and VetForce, which have a critical role to play in providing the right support and real opportunities and training to help veterans readjust to normal life. Through VetForce I was offered training across a number of role types, which are available to equip veterans for careers as Salesforce system analysts, business analysts, technical analysts and various other roles.
Initiatives like this will also benefit the wider Australian business community by helping to fill a gap in the market for skilled IT professionals. A recent Deloitte report projected a shortage of 100,000 IT workers in the next five years, while according to CSIRO, Australia will need to retrain six million people to become digitally literate by 2025 in order to transition to a knowledge economy.
Veterans are more tech savvy than ever before. Their high-demand traits include hands-on experience developing and using complicated IT systems, a solid work ethic, excellent communication skills, and a proven ability to collaborate with in a team.
After 35 years in service, job training and access to a career accelerator program gave me an employment opportunity, which alleviated much stress during the critical period of transitioning into civilian life.
My only hope now is that more organisations across Australia recognise the remarkable skillsets of veterans and can offer them real opportunities.
Veterans, their families, and employers can learn more about VetForce at https://veterans.force.com/ and more great stories can be found on the VetForce Community.
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