Covid-19 Series. A day in the life of Employment Advisor Tom Knight during lockdown.
Tom Knight has been a Walking With The Wounded (WWTW) Employment Advisor since January 2017. Tom is embedded within the Military Veterans’ Service NHS Mental Health team to provide employment support to the ex-servicemen and women who are receiving mental health treatment with them.
Tom practices an evidenced based model of employment support called IPS (Individual Placement and Support). IPS is essentially personalised support for our service users to help them find and sustain appropriate paid employment. Tom works alongside Stephen and Gary to make up our Manchester IPS team and their work was recognised by the Centre for Mental Health as an IPS Centre of Excellence.
Tom, what is the value of the employment support you provide?
When I first meet my clients, they are typically unemployed, complex, sometimes non-trusting. They may have unrealistic goals or perhaps no hope for the future. But, they are also reliant, keen and trustworthy. Paid employment is so important for mental well-health and working alongside the NHS, the ex-servicemen and women I work with are finding and keeping great jobs, which has a positive impact on their mental health.
How have you adapted your employment sessions in light of restrictions brought about by coronavirus?
Due to not being able to meet my clients face to face, I am having regular telephone contact with them and working through the interventions at a distance. I have introduced video meetings to those of my clients would like it and we are using email as a way of conversing a lot more now. I am finding that I am speaking to my clients more often now due to cutting out the travel time. This is positive as it gives my client and I a chance to work through more actions points and better position my client to gain competitive employment opportunities.
What does a typical session with you look like?
One of the first things we would do together is work through a vocational profile so I can understand their goals and we can establish the steps we need to take to reach those goals. Then there’s usually time spent on CVs, job interview skills and job searching. We use action plans throughout the process so that we both agree the progress that we intend to make before the next session. Some of the people I work with have never gone through a civilian recruitment process, so I take time to make sure they understand the differences. I also engage local employers on behalf of my service users so that I can make introductions. This works really well. I stay in touch with both sides when a job is secured to support with that transition into civilian employment.
Do employers want to employ veterans?
Yes, they do. We have had a great response from employers in the Greater Manchester area. Employers are also more aware of mental health and supporting their employees to have well mental health.
Employment is key in addressing social isolation. Many of the people I work with are isolated and employment provides not only financial security, but social inclusion, community and self-worth. Many of the employers we work with come to me when they are looking to recruit again.
Are you finding that employers are still looking to recruit during this period? If so, where have you found employment opportunities?
As we all know, many companies have been forced to close and this has made employment outcomes slightly more challenging to gain. I usually speak with 2 to 3 employers per week and I am finding that most are not employing or have temporarily closed their business. However, there are still employment opportunities out there and they are being advertised. Retail and logistics organisations are currently employing due to the current demand for their services. I have been utilising my existing contacts within these industries to gain opportunities as well as searching online and on company websites.
Is is hard to adjust to civilian life?
Many of the veterans I support joined the military straight from school and then – having perhaps served a full 22 years’ service - have difficulty adjusting to becoming a ‘civvy’. Military service wasn’t just a job, but a way of life; they are used to living and working alongside each other, and I have heard many veterans say that they struggle without this daily support network. I served eight years in the Royal Marines myself, so I understand. I can support them to establish a new network and routine. It is all about teamwork; whether that’s working with Military Veterans’ NHS team or the local employers to make sure the veteran is at the centre and gets the support they need.
Is there enough support for veterans?
There are many charities now working with veterans, but the most effective and efficient are working in partnership and linking with the NHS and other statutory services to ensure whole families are supported and avoiding duplication of effort. There have been great changes and improvements in support for ex-servicemen and women when they leave the military and transition back into civilian work but it is important that we continue to help promptly those who are struggling with significant life changes.
Are there any additional services or organisations that veterans can tap into if they’re looking for employment at the moment?
If the veteran is unemployed, they can access support from their local Job Centre Plus and ask to speak with the Armed Forces Champion. The Job Centre can share any current employment opportunities and as well training courses that lead to employment. Career Transition Partnership (CTP) can also support veterans who are looking to gain employment. CTP specialise in supporting those who are leaving or have left the Armed Forces. There are also employment agencies that can assess the veterans skill-set and aspirations and match them to the most suitable job, if they currently have vacancies.
And lastly, what is the best bit of this job?
Getting to that stage when the veteran moves into “in-work support” as they have gained employment or reached their goals. Witnessing positive change in my clients and looking back through their pre-employment journey. Seeing and hearing about veterans I have worked with socialising with civilian colleagues and not isolating themselves as they once did.
To find out more about WWTW’s employment service and our IPS centres contact firstname.lastname@example.org.