The fifth Partnering with Defence conference organised by Defence Relationship Management (DRM) brought 250 delegates together to learn about the benefits of working with Defence. 

The audience heard from excellent and motivational speakers including the Chief of Defence People, Reservist Natalie Gardener and veterans Luke Sinnott and Shaun Stocker.  As well as the speakers in the main auditorium, guests had the opportunity to attend seminars on shared challenges and best practice in the areas of cyber, employing those within the Service family and how employers can partner with Defence.

Chief of Defence Staff (CDP) Lt Gen Richard Nugee opened the conference with a focus on the ‘growth generation’ — the generation who have been through great adversity on the battlefield and come out stronger. He pointed out that military spouses and partners also have to find strength through adversity. These are all people who are resilient and provide calmness in times of uncertainty.

Lt Gen Nugee highlighted that the Armed Forces Covenant is building momentum:

  • Covenant signings are growing at an exponential rate with nearly 3,500 companies now having submitted their pledge.
  • The Employer Recognition Scheme is also growing with over 2,600 companies participating and Gold Award holders growing by 50% year on year. 

Other speakers included army reservist Natalie Gardner, who told the audience her military career and her NHS career have grown hand in hand over the past ten years. The experience she has gained in management and communication within the Army has helped her be promoted and eventually become and Advanced Critical Care Practitioner in the NHS. Hers is a story of how both the Armed Forces and employers are mutually beneficial to each other.

Natalie never considered a career in the Army, the NHS was her passion but after the Territorial Army (as the Reserves were then known) was explained to her she joined up, at the same time she became a trainee physiotherapist with the NHS. Her first role in the Army was in logistics, this role gave her basic communications skills through transmitting instructions to large convoys of vehicles.

In 2009 she was embedded with a regular unit on a UN Peacekeeping tour in Cyprus and given huge responsibilities for someone of her age dealing with people management and engaging with Cypriot locals. Within six months of returning home, she was promoted from a junior to a senior physio in the NHS and to a Lance Corporal in the Army.

In 2013 she was embedded back with the regular unit, this time in Afghanistan where she planned all the logistical issues and she felt herself develop in the high intensity role. Within seven months of returning to the UK she was asked to apply to become a team leader in the NHS and was successful in

 her application. The feedback she received was that, while you often get good clinicians you don’t often get good leaders and it was her managerial experience from the Army that made the difference.

Inspirational talks came from Shaun Stocker and Paralympian Luke Sinnott, both injured in Afghanistan in 2010.

Luke Sinnott speaks at the Partnering with Defence Conference 2019

Luke turned to sport after he was injured. He just needed to find the sport that fitted his disability and he found the independence he had been looking for with sailing. On the run up to the 2012 Olympics, he sailed Sonars for Team GB, becoming one of the top ten teams in the world.  He then switched to the long jump in 2012. After many broken prosthetic legs he went on to compete in the World Athletics Championships in London in 2017 and came fourth.

Luke is now working towards Tokyo 2020 whilst at the same time training to fly a microlight to the South Pole with eight other injured personnel — a world first — with Flying For Freedom.

Shaun speaks at the Partnering with Defence conference 2019Shaun Stocker was only 19 years old when he was injured, ending his dream career. However, he was determined to regain his independence. He spoke about his journey and recovery since he lost both his legs, eyesight, testicles and suffered severe damage to his shoulder, arms and hands. This included his recent trip in 2018 to Australia to trek 1,000 miles as part of the Invictus Games. During the trek he was told to slow down by the producer as ‘the people with legs can’t keep up’. Shaun ended by saying how last year finished on a high for him as he was awarded a British Empire Medal in the New Year’s Honours list.

Sara Baade from the Army Family Federation introduced employers at the Partnering with Defence conference to the new Forces Families jobs website which will be launching in September 2019. Sara explained that the website is specifically for those currently serving and their families. It is a tri-service platform where employers can advertise roles on there for free. 

The Families Federations from all three Services conducted research to find out what military spouses wanted from the website. They found that 63% of spouses and partners said they had to change job as a result of military life while only 7% said they changed roles because they wanted to. 45% said they felt discriminated against for either a lack of experience or gaps in their CVs and 54% said they did not know where to get support from.

Air Cdre Tim Neal-Hopes spoke about the shared vulnerabilities of cyber threat to both the military and employers. The Ministry of Defence needs business, academics and industry to support cyber operations. These threats are not just about technology and occur in the warfighting domains of land, sea and air.

He went on to say that there is a UK wide challenge with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) qualifications with both Defence and industry fishing in the same pond for talent. There are only a finite number of experts in the field and the MoD needs to work alongside industry to share knowledge and best practice.

DRM are now planning the Partnering with Defence conference 2020 and welcome ideas from the regions for topics they’d like to see covered next year.