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UK economy risks loss of £1.5bn by overlooking the value of ex-military skills in the workforce

  • More than one in five (22%) service leavers will face employment challenges, resulting in a potential loss of £1.5bn to the economy according to new research from Barclays
  • Ex-military could help to plug UK skills shortage, by filling one in six predicted vacancies
  • Barclays urges employers to recognise the value that veterans can bring to the UK workforce

A new study from Barclays has revealed that the UK economy could suffer losses of up to £1.5bn in the next five years if service leavers aren’t able to find employment, or are under employed upon leaving the Armed Forces.

The research calculates the direct and indirect contribution of the up to 85,000 personnel that are estimated to leave the military by 2021; a figure which is equivalent to the number of people currently employed in the UK creative, arts and entertainment sector. While many veterans make a successful transition to civilian employment, the study predicts that one in 10 veterans (10%) will experience long term unemployment, and that a further 12% will be sub-optimally employed (where their skills are being under-utilised by employers).

Those employers that overlook ex-military when recruiting are failing to recognise the valuable skills and experience this cohort of highly talented individuals possesses, as well as the billions of pounds invested by the MOD in the training of military personnel. The impact of this could prove detrimental to the future growth of UK plc, at a time when bolstering the skilled workforce is crucial to securing the country’s economic future.

Around two thirds of employers are expected to experience deficits in soft skills within the next five years, with more than 600,000 jobs left unfilled. By deploying more ex-military personnel into civilian job roles, one in six of these vacancies could be filled, resulting in a contribution of £12.6bn to the UK economy. This is approximate to the annual production of the UK Pharmaceuticals industry.

Previous research conducted by Barclays has shown that many ex-military already face a number of significant challenges when applying for civilian work, many of which stem from a lack of understanding from prospective employers and colleagues alike about what military experience can offer the workforce.

Barclays, as a founding member of the Veterans Employment Transition Support (VETS) programme, is urging employers to see hiring veterans as a business imperative. VETS is formed of a coalition of willing companies, the MOD and leading military charities, who seek to work within existing transition support efforts to maximise employment outcomes for veterans and employers alike.

Stuart Tootal, Head of the Barclays Armed Forces Transition, Employment & Resettlement (AFTER) Programme, said: “This research reinforces how veterans can add real value to the commercial sector. Our ex-military men and women have a wealth of experience and valuable skill sets, and it is time that more employers took advantage of this.

“The VETS programme provides a one-stop-shop for employers wishing to access this considerable pool of ex-military talent, as well as assisting veterans with a range of support to help them find the right job.

In short, VETS is good for veterans, employers and the economy.”

Johnny Mercer MP, Plymouth, Moor View said: “This research by Barclays demonstrates the enormous value that ex-service personnel bring to the UK workforce and to the economy as a whole. I would be delighted to see businesses across the UK utilise the unique skills and experience of our ex-military service men and women, helping them to overcome the inevitable challenges that can come with returning to civilian life.”

Victor Olet, veteran said: “The assistance that I got from VETS really helped me manage the transition from military life. When I first started applying for jobs I had a low response rate from the businesses I was contacting, but the advice I was given about improving my CV really changed that. The VETS programme also really helped build my confidence ahead of job interviews.”

Notes to editors

The approach to the research involved, firstly, gathering and analysis of recent and current official labour market statistics produced by the ONS which allowed estimates to be produced of the current and expected future supply of and demand for soft skills across the UK labour market over the period 2017-2021. There was also an analysis of data on the size and the labour market attributes of personnel leaving the armed forces over the past 5 years: this assessment was based on survey and other data published by the MOD as well as a review of relevant recent studies and reports that address the skills and aptitudes of UK ex-Forces personnel.


The evidence that was gathered was then used to produce estimates for:

  • The potential size and scale of future labour market outcomes (employment, unemployment, under-employment, etc.) experienced by service leavers over the 2017-2021 period
  • The potential contribution that ex-UK Armed Forces personnel could make towards addressing the UK soft skills deficit over this period; and
  • To assess the size of the economic penalties suffered by individuals, employers and the economy as a whole as a result of a failure to recognize in full the soft skills attributes of ex-UK Armed Forces personnel.

About VETS

The Veterans Employment Transition Support programme, known as VETS, is made up a coalition of willing companies and leading military charities, supported by the MOD and Career Transition Partnership (CTP). VETS seeks to work within the existing landscape of transition support activities, to improve and join up these activities in a coordinated manner, share best practice and ultimately support veterans in finding the right employment and employers in hiring the right veterans. VETS supports all veterans, whether they are just leaving the Armed Forces or have already left; seeking employment because they are unemployed, or wishing to improve current employment prospects to better utilise their skill sets and enhance their careers. By creating a platform of connectivity and a coordinated system of tested transition tools and mechanisms, it will also assist employers seeking to hire veterans into their workforce.


The coalition of the willing include:

Service charities: Help for Heroes, Stoll, Walking with the Wounded, X-Forces, Royal British Legion, Regular Forces Employment Association (RFEA) – The Forces Employment Charity, Building Heroes.


Corporates: Barclays, Carillion, Deloitte, Jaguar Land Rover, Laing O’Rourke, ISS World, Amazon, Balfour Beatty, NG Bailey, Traffix UK.


Further information can be found at


About Barclays AFTER

Since its inception in 2010, AFTER has supported over 5,000 service leavers and hired nearly 500 ex-military service personnel of all service and ranks into a range of jobs across the company.

In addition to offering support to colleagues who are part of the Reserves, Barclays AFTER programme hosts a number of initiatives designed to support veterans with their transition into the civilian workplace including CV and Interview workshops, military talent days, internships and placements.

Barclays was also one of the first companies to obtain the coveted Military Covenant Gold standard in recognition for its support to veterans and reservists.

Further information about Barclays AFTER programme can be found at

About Barclays

Barclays is a transatlantic consumer, corporate and investment bank offering products and services across personal, corporate and investment banking, credit cards and wealth management, with a strong presence in our two home markets of the UK and the US.

With over 325 years of history and expertise in banking, Barclays operates in over 40 countries and employs approximately 85,000 people. Barclays moves, lends, invests and protects money for customers and clients worldwide.

For further information about Barclays, please visit our website .