From the Armed Forces to Highways. My journey…

By Rob Haddow, Inspections Portfolio Manager at CPS

The recent remembrance period and armistice events have seen me reflecting on my military career and transition into the highways industry. I’ve had questions from former and present colleagues about this transition and would like to share my experience in case it might be of help to other service leavers considering embarking on a career in highways.

Let me begin by explaining a bit about my military experience. I signed up to the Army as a fresh faced 17-year old, joining the Corp of Royal Engineers and went on to serve for a total of 13 years. After successfully passing the All-Arms Commando course and earning my green beret, I became a commando trained Royal Engineer. This meant that I served within 3 Commando Brigade and provided close combat engineer support to the Royal Marines.  All Commando trained personnel are specialists in amphibious warfare but are able to deploy anywhere in the world, including desert, jungle, mountainous and cold weather environment which is testament to the versatility and adaptability of armed forces personnel. I worked my way through the rank structure of the military and by the end of my service, I was a Senior-Non-Commissioned Officer at a Military Phase One Training establishment.

So, what made me consider leaving? My wife and I had just found out we were expecting our first children, twin daughters. I absolutely loved, and will be forever proud of, my service career, however with my children ‘en route’ my priorities quickly changed direction and I didn’t want to be spending up to six months away from home any longer. As soon as I found out I was becoming a father, I submitted my notice to terminate.

Once I began exploring civilian work opportunities, it quickly became apparent that the construction industry was best suited for my skill set. This led me to look at the leading UK construction companies. I researched which projects they were undertaking at the time and their pipeline of work, carefully considering which one would best suit me. Balfour Beatty instantly stood out. I hadn’t realised the amount and varied types of work it is involved with and was delighted to discover Connect Plus Services, the joint venture partnership between Balfour Beatty, Atkins Realis and Egis, to run the M25 contract over a 30-year period. I live in Essex so a contract of this size, duration and location was very interesting to me.

I’ll be honest, this leap of faith wasn’t made without some level of doubt. Every Service Leaver I know experienced similar anxieties when leaving the Armed Forces. Fear of the unknown isn’t insignificant when making a life change like this, but the truth is that these doubts can creep in when leaving any job. With chaos comes opportunities and I am a big believer that this can be used to your advantage. Yes, it will be hard and you will get knocked back from jobs but embrace the change and most importantly have a plan.

I gave myself milestones in my 12-month transition period which included; attending courses by a certain date, having by CV complete by anther date, attending Recruitment Fairs and then starting to apply, followed by interviews.  After every interview, I went through a lessons-learnt exercise with my wife, capturing what went well and what didn’t so that I was better prepared for my next one.

The Armed Forces is like any other organisation; there is a chain of command, management structure and roles with certain responsibilities. The skillset gained in the military, namely leadership, communication and organisation, can be easily transferred into any civilian organisation. When I learned more about the Highways industry, I started to realise that some of the roles and responsibilities of a Royal Engineer carrying out construction are similar to what is required to keep the highly strategic M25 network running. I truly believe there is a is a role here for anyone leaving the Services.  For me, working on the M25, no day is the same. Each day provides a different challenge which I overcome putting many of the skills I learned in the military into practice.

If this sounds interesting to you, please do take a look at our current openings and get it in touch!