This morning, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the launch of an Australian-first programme that’s designed to help Australian defence force veterans and emergency services personnel transition back into civilian life. The ‘Hand Up’ programme, managed by non-for-profit body Soldier On, is collaborating with private companies and startups to provide a suite of education and employment services to our current generation of veterans and their partners.
Soldier On’s CEO John Bale says that since 2001, over 33,000 Australian Defence Force, Public Service and Australian Federal Police officers have served in the Middle East Area and Afghanistan, and many have been physically or psychologically affected by their service or the impact on their families.
Whereas the Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Department of Defence only handle medical treatments and pensions, the new programme takes a holistic approach in helping veterans reintegrate into civilian life.
Delivered in partnership with the Australian Business Academy, Frontier People, Konekt, Enabled Employment and the Queensland Chamber of Commerce, and with support from Northrop Grumman (who is a major sponsor of the programme) and Citadel Group, the Soldier On Hand Up programme will offer: free diploma level courses in business administration, graphic design, IT, accounting, and management, as well as workshops and short-courses in other fields; vocational assessments to identify existing skills and up-skilling opportunities; assistance with CVs and interview preparation; and a dedicated employment portal for veterans looking for flexible jobs.
“The transition from service to civilian life is challenging for all those making the change, regardless of the wounds you suffer from service,” says Bale. “These programmes are an exciting opportunity for wounded men and women, and their families, to secure themselves a future with promise.”
Canberra-based startup Enabled Employment will be critical to the programme’s end goal: gainful employment. The startup believes employment is an important part of the recovery and reintegration process and that its participation in the programme will help provide a systemised pathway into civilian employment.
The startup was built to match employers – including government departments – with Australians living with disabilities, Indigenous Australians, returned servicemen and women, and people in rural areas. Enabled Employment makes the recruitment process easier for employers and employees by combining cloud technology with the employment agency business model.
The startup, which was launched with the help of a grant from the ACT Government and named the winner of Optus’ first Your Shark Tank competition last month, now has a pool of over 1,300 potential employees that businesses can tap into.
All staff at management level and employees of Enabled Employment are people living with psychological or physical disabilities.
“We are 100 percent run by people with a disability for people with a disability. We are the catalyst for change that we have wanted to see for people who are facing disadvantages to securing employment,” said Enabled Employment Founder and CEO, Jessica May.
As part of the Hand Up programme, Enabled Employment has developed a dedicated employment website where employers can be matched with recovering or wounded personnel and their partners looking for casual, part-time or permanent roles.
The startup believes giving returned servicemen and women and emergency services personnel the opportunity to use their knowledge and skills and continue to live with financial independence is “a game changer for businesses and has proven positive outcomes on their staff culture and productivity.”
“Australia’s employers can profit from this often overlooked group of highly skilled workers. Yet businesses are sometimes unaware of the advantages of hiring Defence or emergency services veterans,” said May.
“These men and women have succeeded in some of the toughest situations imaginable and they are resilient, resourceful and quick thinkers. They can bring hard skills to a business like information technology, management and other qualifications and soft skills such as the ability to work in a team and the maturity to succeed in tough times.”
So far 40 jobs are listed on the new employment website, with Fujitsu Australia among the first companies using the programme. Fujitsu Australia is currently advertising 29 information technology, 3D modelling and other jobs in Canberra, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide and regional NSW.
Robert Pickersgill, who participated in one of the short-term courses offered by Soldier On, says employment enabled his life after service to have meaning.
“The transition is never easy, as you need to convert your skills for the civilian workforce,” says Pickersgill. “It was great to have the opportunity to gain additional skills and meet other veterans in a similar position to me. We shared our stories, had a great time, and now have access to a whole host of services through Soldier On.”
“I just hope more veterans put their hand up for help.”
Featured Image: Enabled Employment team. Source: Provided.