Independent Graduate: Well Armed for a Job on Civvy Street ; `Army Officer' on a CV Guarantees Unequalled Leadership, Decision- Making, Communication and Planning Skills

By Hilpern, Kate | The Independent (London, England), November 28, 2001 | Go to article overview
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Independent Graduate: Well Armed for a Job on Civvy Street ; `Army Officer' on a CV Guarantees Unequalled Leadership, Decision- Making, Communication and Planning Skills


Hilpern, Kate, The Independent (London, England)


"When you have a team of soldiers under your command and machine gun fire is rattling from all directions, the only way to ensure your team's safety is through effective leadership." Powerful words from a recent graduate who joined the Army, but then, having 30 or so people under your command 24 hours a day, seven days a week is a powerful job. Not only are you, as an officer, responsible for their protection, but also for their career development, welfare, training and discipline. As if that's not enough, you may be asked to do this in a war zone.

Yet despite the responsibility, job security, excitement and variety of an Army career, there remains a shortage of graduate applicants. As a result, the Army is about to launch a new advertising campaign to meet its annual target of recruiting nearly 1,000 top university-leavers for officer training. The pounds 1m campaign aims to challenge research findings that reveal popular misconceptions about Army careers.

One such misconception is that being an officer is all physical work and no brain work, claims Colonel Richard Fawcus from Army Officer Recruiting. "Just about every profession and management role you can think of is now available in the Army - from civil engineer to teacher and from IT manager to accountant. It's one of the reasons we're interested in every degree subject," he says.

Others think that to be accepted by the Army you need a public- school background, a double-barrelled name or at the very least a parent who has had an army career. "In truth, however, 55 per cent of officers now have a state-school background and don't come from military families," says Colonel Fawcus. "In relation to the country as a whole, of course, that percentage is still disproportionate, but it's changing fast."

The fact that entry standards are set at school-leaving level is a further problem, Colonel Fawcus admits. "Graduates think if you can get into the Army with two A-levels, why waste your time going to them for a graduate profession? But the more intellectual capacity an Army recruit has, the more opportunities to make it to the top quicker."

That's all very tempting, you may be thinking, but I just don't want to sign my life away. The reality is, however, that while many people regard their army role as a long-term career option, others join for a shorter period.

Colonel Wayne Harber from Army Recruiting says: `The [advertising] campaign will communicate how the Army is the ideal training ground for graduates to develop a wide range of the vital skills and experience required in today's ever-demanding workplace. All trained officers will have developed exceptional skills in leadership, decision-making, communications and planning, as well as their chosen specialisation such as IT, engineering, logistics or HR. This makes them eminently employable - whatever they choose to do."

Lieutenant James Fisher, 27, says: "I keep a constant eye on the job market because at some point, I may well decide to pursue my career away from the army. I've always said I'll stay in the Army as long as I enjoy it and I still stick to that philosophy. It's a huge peace of mind knowing my skills are so transferable."

Major Tyrone Urch, 34, who commands an engineer squadron in Kent, believes a graduate officer's demonstrable leadership qualities mean that they have a good chance of being ahead of their peers. "Immediately after my in-service degree, I was posted to Northern Ireland as an operations officer where I represented the project manager on a pounds 1m construction project," he says. "I certainly wouldn't have been given this amount of responsibility in my first job in Civvy Street."

Then there's the gender issue. Even though there is a fast- increasing number of female officers, the Army is traditionally considered a male bastion. This is no doubt a contentious issue for the Army, but radical steps have been taken.

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