In the eight years Julie Taylor served in the Royal Logistic Corps, she drove plenty of Land Rovers and even helped parachute one or two off the back of a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft.
The 36-year-old now works at the Land Rover plant in Solihull, where she organises the movement of vehicles from the production line to dealerships across the country. She left the Army a year ago and is one of more than 100 veterans recruited by the luxury car-maker this year.
Some veterans find the transition to civilian life difficult and struggle to hold down jobs when they leave, but Ms Taylor has thrived. Her new employer is one of more than 370 businesses that have signed up to the Government’s Corporate Covenant, a scheme to encourage businesses to employ and support ex-servicemen and women.
For Ms Taylor, who rose to the rank of captain, the biggest challenge at Land Rover has been adjusting to the “softer ways of working on civvy street”.
“In the Army I would never have gone over the head of my direct superior with an opinion or a question, so it’s taken a while for me to adjust here to know that I can talk to management; in fact I’m encouraged to,” she says.
Like most British veterans working at Jaguar Land Rover, Ms Taylor served in Afghanistan and is open about the challenges she faced there. But she says the confidence and experience she gained from transporting everything from bullets to army biscuits left her well-equipped for a civilian career.
Others are not so lucky, which is why the Government is pushing the Corporate Covenant and has pledged £100m in support. The first company to sign up to the scheme was Tesco, followed by Barclays, BT, Jaguar Land Rover and Liverpool Football Club. Each promises to support serving soldiers, sailors and airmen, veterans, reservists and their families.
“With more than 370 companies already adopting the Corporate Covenant, it’s obvious employers recognise the value of skills acquired during a career in the armed forces,” said veterans minister Anna Soubry. “In return, service personnel secure a hugely valuable foothold on the civilian career ladder and get the chance to develop their skills, gain new qualifications and play a full part in society.”
Dr Hugh Milroy, the chief executive of Veterans Aid, one of the two charities being supported by The Independent’s Homeless Veterans appeal this Christmas, said that while the Corporate Covenant was welcome, the Government could do more.
“I absolutely applaud companies like Jaguar Land Rover supporting the Corporate Covenant, but I wonder how many veterans have been employed by the Government and its various departments?
In pictures: Homeless Veterans appeal
In pictures: Homeless Veterans appeal
1/20 Glynn Barrell
Glyn Barrell is among the veterans hoping to benefit from the self-build scheme in Plymouth
2/20 Rachel Holliday
Rachel Holliday is converting a police station into a hostel
3/20 Androcles Scicluna
Veteran Androcles Scicluna says performing boosted his confidence
4/20 Christopher Cole
Christopher Cole, 51, from London, spent three years in the Army but left in 1982
5/20 Maurillia Simpson
Former servicewoman Maurillia Simpson with the medals she won at last year’s Invictus Games
Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard
6/20 Martin Rutledge
Head of The Soldiers’ Charity, Martin Rutledge, says charities sometimes allow emotion to dictate their choices
7/20 Ben Griffin
Ben Griffin wants to open people’s eyes to the cycle of political violence
8/20 Robin Horsfall
Robin Horsfall, who fought in the Falklands and helped end the Iranian embassy siege
9/20 Mark Hayward
A bed for the night and food helped Mark Hayward out of misfortune
10/20 Ashley Rosser
Ashley Rosser, who served in the RAF, at the Veterans Aid hostel in east London
11/20 Dave Henson
Britain's Invictus Games captain Dave Henson says veterans’ charities helped rebuild his life
Chris Jackson/Getty Images
12/20 Hugh Milroy
Hugh Milroy dispels myths about war-zone veterans through his work as the CEO of Veterans Aid
13/20 Andy MacFarlane and Julie Taylor
Former soldiers Andy MacFarlane and Julie Taylor work at the Jaguar Land Rover plant in Solihull under a covenant connecting veterans with employers
14/20 Mark McKillion
Mark McKillion's experience of living on the street eventually left him feeling as though the only way to escape was to end his life. He survived his desperate jump from Westminster Bridge, and VA's help has restored his "faith in humanity"
Nigel, a navy veteran, remembers living on the beach in the run-up to Christmas, when it rained every day for a week. He slept on a bench for seven years whilst suffering from Parkinson's disease.
16/20 Keith Cooper
Before Keith Cooper had his place confirmed at Avondale House in Newcastle, he was working out whether he could afford to buy a tent to live in
17/20 Simon Weston
Simon Weston, a Falklands War veteran, said even something as simple as a cup of tea can be an important step in getting the life of a homeless veteran back on track.
18/20 Ian Palmer, professor of military psychiatry
Ian Palmer, the first professor of military psychiatry to the British Armed Forces, says that the depiction of all ex-service personnel having post-traumatic stress disorder may stop people who really need help from getting it
19/20 Douglas Cameron
Evgeny Lebedev with Douglas Cameron, who had a hernia operation while serving in Burma
Johnnie Shand Kidd
20/20 Veterans Aid
General Sir Mike Jackson, President of ABF The Soldiers' Charity, called for donations to the Homeless Veterans appeal
“A government leading by example would be very useful in encouraging more employers to sign up to the covenant and demonstrate to the military community that highlighting its existence is not just electioneering talk.”
Jaguar Land Rover says it plans to recruit 150 more veterans to work across its six manufacturing plants and research centres, on top of the more than 100 it recruited last year. It also offers support to Early Service Leavers, hoping to give 6,500 former military personnel the necessary training to allow them to re-enter the job market.
“All our cars are made in Britain and we have a long-term link with the British armed forces that goes right back to the first Land Rovers in the late 1940s until the Defender today,” said Simon Lenton, the company’s head of human resources. “So this is a natural tie-in for us.”
The company has recruited former soldiers as engineers, line operators and managers. It has had to adapt some stations on its production line to accommodate veterans with reduced mobility, but Mr Lenton said it valued the “high levels of valuable engineering skills” they brought to the company.
One of the new engineers at the Solihull plant, which will soon build the new Jaguar XE model, is Andy MacFarlane, who spent 22 years in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers before moving to Jaguar Land Rover at the start of this year.
He is now process leader ensuring quality control and safety on the Range Rover Sport production line. “[It] has been just like starting a new Army posting,” he said. “I had the skills I need and was ready to hit the ground running.”
Brigadier (Ret’d) Robin Bacon, Chief of Staff at ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, which is also benefiting from The Independent’s appeal, said: “The skills our armed forces develop while they are serving their country are invaluable to a future employer; leadership and decision-making in high-pressure situations and team work are all key experiences these men and women can bring.”
The Soldiers’ Charity has worked with Barclays for the past four years, supporting training courses for homeless veterans as part of the bank’s Armed Forces Transition, Employment & Resettlement programme, which has assisted 2,800 veterans since 2010.
“Many organisations could benefit from following the example of Barclays and Jaguar Land Rover and show their support for the forces community,” he added.
Former soldiers Andy MacFarlane and Julie Taylor, who now work at the Jaguar Land Rover plant in Solihull Andrew FoxReuse content