Forces winning fight to redeploy staff: Christopher Bellamy looks at efforts to find jobs for the personnel made redundant by successive defence reviews

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THE ARMED FORCES are achieving impressive results in placing redundant personnel in jobs when they leave, but there is no follow-up to gauge the long- term success of the programme.

Although people may be placed in jobs, they may not be the right jobs. But once someone from the Navy, Army or RAF is in a job, the services' duty is done. If former services personnel face long-term problems in a civilian environment and cannot hold down the job, that is not recorded.

Results of the Defence Cost Study - Front-Line First - are to be announced next month. Defence sources expect about 14,000 more military and 7,000 civilian jobs to go, but 'very very few' of the redundancies will be compulsory. Planners are expecting 1,200 'premature voluntary redundancies' in the ensuing three months.

The forces have made great efforts to place in suitable jobs the 24,000 already made redundant - mostly voluntarily - under the Options for Change review. They are getting better at it, so they hope to cope with the next wave.

Spouses are now being offered spare places on resettlement courses so that if the serviceman or woman is out of a job for a while, the wife or husband may be better equipped to support the family.

Education is heavily emphasised. The services are at the forefront of encouraging their members to get 'accredited prior learning' - National Vocational Qualifications. A platoon sergeant in the mechanised infantry - the second-in-command of four Warrior infantry fighting vehicles, 32 soldiers and a million pound's worth of equipment - has to complete a course which now also earns an NVQ3, which in turn equates to an A-level in business administration.

Many senior non-commissioned personnel are now completing Open University degree courses as well.

No other employer offers so much in the way of resettlement advice and training and the statistics so far are impressive. Half the service personnel leaving now have a job before they go and 85 per cent are in a job within a year - 10 per cent more than a year ago. Many others return to further education.

'The flow of job offers has gone up very much in the last year,' according to Brigadier Gage Williams, the Army's Director of Resettlement. 'The first five months this year compare very well with the first five last year.'

Furthermore, many of the employers who became involved in the 'Access to Excellence' scheme have come back looking for more recruits, he said, an indication that in many cases they are happy with their ex-services employees.

The improved take-up of exservice personnel may be due to an upturn in the economy, to the marketing exercise the Ministry of Defence has undertaken and to adjustments in the retraining programme.

Anyone leaving the forces receives job search briefings, tuition in how to write CVs, interview practice and psychometric tests. Brigadier Williams said 60 or 70 per cent of those leaving found jobs by their own efforts - the balance - 15 per cent - benefited from the 'top up' of training and advice. But it is possible that in some cases people may be steered into 'sensible jobs', with long- term penalties, which lie outside the services' responsibility