The transition of ex-military personnel into civilian roles has always been a focal point of discussions regarding career development post-service.
Particularly, the engineering industry stands out as an ideal sector where the skills and attributes honed in the military can be seamlessly transferred and highly valued.
This article, by Paige West, Managing Editor, Electronic Specifier, delves into the myriad of reasons why individuals with a military background are well-suited for the engineering field, highlighting how their unique experiences and skill sets can benefit this dynamic industry.
Discipline and precision
At the heart of military training lies a strong emphasis on discipline and precision – qualities that are also foundational in engineering. Military operations demand meticulous attention to detail and adherence to strict protocols, mirroring the rigorous precision required in engineering projects. Whether it's following complex technical specifications or ensuring compliance with safety regulations, ex-military engineers are adept at working within defined parameters to achieve optimal results.
Problem-solving and adaptability
The unpredictable nature of military missions necessitates quick thinking and effective problem-solving skills, often under significant pressure. This ability to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances translates well into the engineering sector, where professionals frequently encounter unforeseen challenges. The engineering industry benefits from the decisive and innovative approach that ex-military personnel bring to the table, enabling solutions that are both creative and pragmatic.
Technical acumen and operational expertise
Many military roles are technical in nature, involving the operation and maintenance of complex machinery and equipment. This technical acumen provides a solid foundation for a career in engineering, where understanding and leveraging technology is paramount. The operational expertise acquired through military service ensures that ex-military engineers are not just theorists but practitioners who can manage the hands-on aspects of engineering work with competence.
Leadership and teamwork
Leadership is a core component of military training, with individuals often tasked with leading teams in challenging environments. This experience fosters strong leadership qualities that are invaluable in engineering, where leading projects, managing teams, and coordinating with various stakeholders are critical for success. Moreover, the collaborative spirit ingrained in military personnel through teamwork aligns with the cross-functional nature of engineering projects, promoting a cohesive and efficient working environment.
Risk management and safety awareness
The military instils a profound awareness of risk management and safety, teaching individuals to anticipate, evaluate, and mitigate potential hazards. In engineering, where risk assessment and safety management are crucial, especially in fields such as civil, chemical, or mechanical engineering, this mindset is indispensable. Ex-military engineers naturally prioritise safety and are well-versed in implementing procedures to safeguard against accidents and ensure project integrity.
Project management and logistical coordination
Military operations often involve complex logistical coordination and project management skills, aligning closely with engineering projects that require similar competencies. The ability to plan, execute, and deliver projects within the constraints of time, resources, and budgets is a transferable skill that positions ex-military personnel as proficient project managers within the engineering sector.
Navigating civilian corporate culture
While the transition of ex-military personnel into engineering roles presents numerous advantages, it is not without its challenges.
One potential hurdle is the adjustment to the civilian corporate culture, which can differ significantly from military environments. The hierarchical and regimented structure of the military may contrast with the often more flexible and autonomous culture found in many engineering firms.
Former service members might also find that the collaborative decision-making processes and the emphasis on consensus in the corporate world are a departure from the command-and-obey dynamics they are accustomed to. This shift necessitates a re-calibration of communication styles and an understanding of the nuances of corporate diplomacy.
One such solider I spoke to who was a Corporal in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) and is now a Mechanical Surveyor said: “The general consensus is that soldiers don’t think they’ll be able to transfer their skills to a civilian job as the military is quite niche, but in reality, the skills transfer over quite easily and even gives you an edge.
“A lot of people find it hard not being in a close-knit team, and the military sometimes lacks on up-to-date technology compared to engineering, but engineering is engineering so you’ll always know the basics and [soldiers] are used to working with minimal/no equipment but still making it work so it’s swings and roundabouts.”
Most organisations provide a robust onboarding programme that facilitate this cultural transition. By offering mentorship from other ex-military personnel who have successfully integrated into the engineering field, and by fostering an inclusive environment that values the diverse backgrounds of its workforce, companies can ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible. It is also beneficial to provide training that bridges the gap between military and civilian work practices, enabling ex-military engineers to fully harness their potential in their new roles.
In turn, ex-military personnel can proactively seek to understand the cultural dynamics of their new workplace, remaining open to continuous learning and adaptation.
The transition of ex-military personnel into the engineering industry is not just a natural fit but a strategic enhancement to the workforce. The skills developed during military service – ranging from leadership to technical proficiency, and from risk management to project execution – are not only compatible with but are also greatly beneficial to the engineering sector. Engineering firms that recognise and leverage these transferrable skills will find that ex-military engineers are not only capable of adapting to but excelling in their new roles, driving innovation and progress within the industry.
As industries evolve and the demand for skilled engineering professionals grows, the integration of ex-military personnel could be a key strategy in bridging the skills gap, bringing a wealth of
experience, a unique perspective, and a steadfast work ethic to the forefront of engineering innovation.
About Electronic Specifier
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