A Flying Start

Leaving the heat and technicolour of India’s Mumbai for Tasmania’s green and cooler climes, Sandesh started his new life in Australia working in the textile industry. 

While attending an Air Show five years later, Sandesh’s attention post aerial acrobatics was drawn to the RAAF information booth. Intrigued by potential new career options he approached the recruiters and not long after began a career with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) as an aircraft structural Technician on the AP 3C Orion and C27J Spartan. 

Sandesh enjoyed the growth and variety his job offered and though it required relocating every few years, with no wife or children at the time he was happy to go where the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) needed him. 

However, after being settled in Queensland at RAAF Base Amberley for two-and-a-half years and engaged to be married, Sandesh was reluctant to move again. When a posting to Newcastle came in August last year, he decided it was time to consider a future outside the ADF. 

With his wedding planned for December 2021, Sandesh gave himself three months to secure employment after discharging from the RAAF – while at the same time helping his wife settle into her new life and find work as a food technologist. 

Sandesh said he didn’t know how long it would take to secure a civilian job, however, with the help of Soldier On’s employment team, he acquired a position with Boeing Australia as an aircraft structure technician – a similar role he’d held in the RAAF. 

“Just before being posted out, I went to a Soldier On Pathway Network evening and spoke to Yvonne who helped me a lot with the transition process. This really opened my mind and increased my comfort level about succeeding on a professional and personal level outside the military. 

“Yvonne started from scratch – building my resume and guiding me through the process. After that, things moved very quickly and she put me in touch with Boeing Australia,” Sandesh said. 

“I had thought there wasn’t much I could do outside of Defence, but Soldier On helped me realise there were companies keen for my skills and experience,” he added. 

“Because of my work supporting Australian aircraft in-country, I was able to transition into Boeing’s structures team seamlessly, and while it is different; I could also continue servicing the defence industry. 

“Our commitment to the Soldier On Platinum Pledge helps us identify and attract talent across the aerospace business, whether from advanced manufacturing on commercial aircraft or research and development to aircraft maintenance and cyber security,” said Amy List, Director of Sustainment Operations, Boeing Defence Australia and the Executive Sponsor of the Boeing Veterans Working Group. 

“Our employees get just as much out of our involvement in the mentorship program as the veterans they’re supporting who are transitioning to civilian life. It’s a mutually fulfilling experience.” 

According to Sandesh, the skills veterans acquire during their time in the military are essential for any employer. He says communication and leadership qualities were significant contributors to his successful Boeing Australia application. 

“There are more promotional opportunities for me at Boeing, which offers a good platform to grow,” he said. 

“Boeing Australia like the skills I bring with me to the position, such as punctuality and the quality of work I offer. To find a stable and well-paying job during a pandemic is very difficult, and Boeing offered me both. They look after veterans very well,” he added 

“I’ve heard people say that the same level of opportunities aren’t offered outside the military, that I would have to have a pay cut and would go down rather than up. For a person like me who has no complaints about learning and working hard, finding a job with Boeing Australia was a great fit.” 

Sandesh said Boeing Australia were accommodating with his start date and allowed him time off to travel to India to get married, return home to Queensland and settle into his new life post-military. 

“Boeing were supportive of my wedding and happy for me to start in January this year. The first three months have been good and I feel very lucky to have found a job that I enjoy and is very similar to what I did with the RAAF.” 

“I was worried initially about going from Defence to a civilian role which can be difficult and take a long time. Things didn’t really change that much though because I’m still on a military base looking after aircraft – the main difference is my uniform!” he said. 

Senior Pathways Officer, Yvonne Dolman said working with transitioning members, veterans and veteran families is a unique opportunity. 

“I met Sandesh “Sonny” at our Pathways Networking Event. These evenings give transitioning defence personnel opportunities to meet employers in a relaxed but professional environment. 

“It’s a pleasure to collaborate with our pledge partners/Employers and introduce what opportunities are available to transitioning members. It’s not an easy decision to leave Defence, and we utilise our resources, knowledge, and experience to assist with their next career direction. It was a pleasure to meet, work with and support Sonny through this process, and I wish him all the best for the future,” she added. 

NATIONAL COLLABORATION TAKES ON CYBER SECURITY BATTLE

An innovative new industry partnership will support Australia’s rapidly advancing technological landscape and boost national cyber security capabilities to meet one of the country’s most pressing national priority areas.

In support of retired defence personnel looking to retrain and reskill into civilian life, the University of Southern Queensland will collaborate directly with Veterans’ support organisation Soldier On and Fortune 500 global IT services provider DXC Technology, to design a bespoke undergraduate Bachelor of Cyber Security program supported through a one-year paid industry internship that will also offer industry credentials including IBM SkillsBuild.

The unprecedented and novel program is being designed to meet the needs of a national priority area and support the Australian Signals Directorate Strategic Plan that recently announced a $9.9 billion dollar investment over the next decade – the largest ever in cyber and intelligence capabilities in Australia’s history.

University of Southern Queensland Dean (Academic Transformation) Professor Lyn Alderman said the innovative, industry-led co-designed bespoke program ensured an equitable transition pathway from military service directly into industry for Veterans and would be specifically designed to support those with no prior experience in the Cyber Security space.

“The University is incredibly proud to bring a multi-faceted approach to a strategic, grassroots collaboration and industry cooperation to offer solutions to a number of national issues,” Professor Alderman said.

“In the first instance, there is a shortage of skilled workers in the cyber security industry, and it is evident that current conventional methods are unable to meet current and future demand, so it makes sense to work with industry partners who have the same aligned focus on helping to produce job ready graduates and deliver them directly to sectors in need.

“Further to that, actively building job opportunities for returned service men and women with recognition of their past Defence service, and supporting Australia’s national security capabilities, is something the University is committed to.”

Senior Executive of Cyber Security at DXC Technology and University of Southern Queensland Adjunct Professor Neil Curtis said the internship program would offer participants certified, industry operational, cyber security training.

“This will be accompanied by real-time on the ground cyber security employment in our live and operational cyber security business, and this includes our Defence, National Security and Government sectors as well as the infrastructure and business portfolios,” Adjunct Professor Curtis said.

“This hands-on experience with technical certifications will prime the Veteran for an ongoing career in cyber security across our business and the broader sector, and overall we will be very excited to welcome these military Veterans into the industry.”

Soldier On Interim CEO, Prudence Slaughter, said the long-term impact of providing equitable transition pathways from military service into industry could not be understated.

“Veterans possess a tremendously diverse skillset from their service experience. Education is a powerful tool for Veterans to advance these skills and their careers after service,” she said

“This collaboration will provide Veterans with valuable guidance in their transition to the civilian workforce and aid in enhancing the field of cyber security in Australia. Soldier On is delighted to see leading organisations working together for the betterment of our Veterans and we look forward to supporting this powerful initiative,” she said.

Coming Home

After leaving the Army, Owen Brady is creating a bright future thanks to Soldier On

It’s 1980s regional South Australia, and in Port Augusta, children have two choices: to stay in the town offensively nicknamed Porta Gutta, or get out. Owen Brady chose the latter.

As an Indigenous boy growing up in a town where there was little to do, Owen said he had no interest in drinking alcohol or adding to the already high youth crime rate.

However, despite having a tight-knit and supportive family, Owen said at school he was defined by teachers as “just another indigenous boy from Port Augusta with little prospects”.

He recalled sitting quietly in the classroom with his hand up, curious and eager to ask a question. The teacher paid him no attention, he said.

Ignored, he turned to the classroom window and looked out at the dry, red-hued landscape. The land he overlooked is the gateway to Australia’s vast interior, the land of his ancestors. It is land that once held great promise. A seed was planted in Owen’s imagination.   

Owen said he was eight years old when he decided his future was with the Australian Army, but what he did not realise then, sitting in his classroom, is the land of his ancestors would one day call him home to help preserve the natural habitat of his country.

“It was in primary school where I made the decision that I wanted to join the Army. I thought that they were tough and that it was very admirable, also so people would view me as a positive beacon of someone that helped break the stigma of negativity in my community,” Owen explained.

No longer the Indigenous kid refused a voice, after 16 years of service in the Royal Australian Signal Corp as a ‘Geek’, or information system technician, for Owen, now 40, the time has come to leave the Australian Army. It feels right. He is ready to reconnect with the land and his culture, return to Port Augusta and pursue his dream to study agriculture while starting a position in Adelaide with Soldier On Pledge Partner JLB-Yaran, mentoring young Indigenous professionals.

With the support of the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) Veteran charity Soldier On, which takes a holistic approach to employment and education, Owen said his future was mapped out before he leaves the military in May.

Owen says he has always felt different. He is a self-confessed deep thinker, someone with “determination and spirit”.

A smile crosses Owen’s face when he describes himself as someone who prefers not to follow the crowd: “No one wants to be the Wiggles, everyone wants to be a rockstar…”

However, what became clear to Owen, is his infectious determination to not only be different, but to do things differently. He says “I’d rather be the Wiggles and do things differently, but my way.

“An opportunity without preparation is a missed opportunity, do the preparation and the opportunity will present itself.”

Medically retiring from the Army in May, Owen had meticulously planned his exit. His long-term goal after being discharged is to be a self-sufficient regenerative farmer in regional South Australia. Yet what Owen was unsure of, was how he could achieve this dream of building a future in regenerative agriculture.

Owen said the defining moment in his transition to civilian life was listening to a Soldier On education officer. “Soldier On spoke about the importance of staying connected once you leave the military,” Owen said. “It wasn’t until they spoke about education and university scholarships that my future finally clicked for me…learning and training and a means to do it, that’s what got me.”

Through Soldier On’s Pathways Program, Owen became one of the first participants to be mentored using the Career Construction Theory method. Introduced in 2021, the veteran-centric approach will help former military personnel draw on purpose and identity instead of seeking employment based on the skills they acquired in the ADF.

“Everyone spoke to me about a career in IT, this wasn’t for me,” Owen said. “I told Soldier On, I want to work in agriculture, I need to be outside and have that connection with nature and the elements; a career in IT would not satisfy my need to play an active role to regenerate my country.

“Soldier On did everything possible to help me get into university and to map out my future. Soldier On listened to what I am passionate about and where I see my future, they guided me to achieve this.”

Soldier On’s then Education Manager, Daniel Vincent, said: “[During] Owen’s journey through the Pathways Program he took the opportunity to make his transition as successful as possible, by looking at his purpose. Owen’s journey through career construction and discovering his purpose was one of the most inspiring moments.”

Daniel said Owen’s meticulous planning for life after the ADF is a credit to his personal drive and well-honed organisational skills.

“The best time to think about your transition is your first day of service. The next best time is now; this is one of the keys to career construction. His story is truly amazing, and I look forward to continuing being a part [of it],” he said.

The process was simple, Owen said. “Daniel suggested we map out my future goals and how he thought they could be achieved on a whiteboard. Soldier On did the rest.

“Soldier On took my ideas and where I see my future and helped me design a path to achieving my goals. They asked me what I wanted to achieve, not what their expectations of me were based on my military experience.”

National Psychology Services Manager for Soldier On, Joe Losinno said using the career construction method will help veterans map out their future career pathway and tailor the process to the Veteran’s future ambitions and goals.

“Career construction is a communication pathway for the veteran moving forward, it crystalises a life worth living and an ability to find an ethical self, led by values in the civilian world. It is not a directive; it is about the veteran. It is moving away from just writing resumes, it’s about building resumes.”

Owen said it was not until he attended the talk given by Soldier On that he felt that he was listened to and that he had a voice. The Indigenous boy discouraged from making future plans could now see his future studying at university and living off the land.

“I need to get back to Country and to my future ambitions, Soldier On has helped me achieve this. I was always passionate about the environment and animals. That is probably one of the main reasons driving me to become a regenerative farmer but preferably an environmental scientist.”

Owen said for anyone considering leaving the military, “Don’t be so quick on your decision to get out, go to the Soldier On information sessions, make an informed decision but don’t get out before knowing what you want to do.

“I am not the smartest person, but it does not mean I can’t learn new things, learn something you are interested in, that’s Soldier On and without their help and the opportunities they gave me I would not have applied to study agriculture at university. They presented me the idea and I ran with it, Owen said. 

Daniel Cooper, Operations Manager for Soldier On Pledge Partner JLB-Yaran said: “As a proud Indigenous and Veteran owned company, JLB-Yaran are passionate about assisting Indigenous Veterans such as Owen with employment outside uniform.

“Owen represents everything our company stands for. He is a proud Indigenous man who has served his country and he is now passionate about giving back to his community which he will be able to do as an Indigenous mentor in our Indigenous Development and Employment Program (IDEP).”

BOEING AUSTRALIA AND SOLDIER ON JOIN FORCES FOR VETERAN MENTORING PROGRAM

Soldier On and Boeing Australia have teamed up to establish a national mentoring program for veterans and their family members.

Veterans and their families can now access the Soldier On Boeing Mentoring Program, which launched today on Soldier On’s website and is now open to applications.

The Soldier On and Boeing Australia Mentoring Program covers all aspects of the veteran transitioning phase, providing structured support for members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) community. 

Specialised support will be provided in areas such as career change, progression and planning, skill development, and professional networking.

Veterans and family members will be selectively matched with Soldier On Pledge Partner employees, who will mentor the participant for the duration of the program.

Long-term supporters of Soldier On programs, Boeing Australia have collaborated to establish several employment and connection initiatives and will be active participants in Soldier On’s March On campaign.

“We value the skills and contributions of former service personnel, and this program is a fantastic way to support veterans as they transition to a life out of uniform into civilian roles, where their professionalism, loyalty and experience can be meaningfully applied,” said Dr Brendan Nelson AO, president of Boeing Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific.

 “As a large employer of veterans, many of our employees have firsthand experience of the challenges faced when re-entering the workforce and are committed to empowering others.”

Participants will develop goals along with their mentor, strategise and work together on how to achieve these goals, whether personal or work-related.

This program will utilize a mentoring platform designed to create opportunities for growth and development. The program is participant centric, with the flexibility to tailor to the needs of the individual.

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich said Soldier On is delighted to partner with Boeing Australia on the innovative new initiative.

 “The impact quality mentoring can have for a transitioning veteran is significant. Partnering with Boeing Australia to deliver this powerful program, expands access to the knowledge, experience and guidance of leaders in their varied fields of expertise.

We expect both mentors and mentees will cement valuable relationships and both will be enriched through the experience.  This will enable more veterans and their family members to thrive”.

Soldier On Acknowledges Advanced Veteran Support Practices by World Fuel Services Australia

National not-for-profit, Soldier On, has recognised World Fuel Services Australia as a Platinum Pledge partner today at a ceremony held in Canberra.

World Fuel Services Australia has been working with Solider On’s Pathways Program team over the past year to further develop their veteran supportive practices to enable veterans and their families to secure their future careers.

The Pathways Program provides free employment and education support to serving and ex-serving veterans and their families. As part of the program, the Soldier On Pledge supports organisations in improving their veteran-supportive mechanisms, while connecting jobseekers with veteran-supportive employers and enabling new pathways for veterans and their families transitioning from the Australian Defence Force into civilian life.

Originally signing the Solider On Pledge as a Bronze Pledge Partner in 2020, World Fuel Services Australia has worked with the Soldier On team to advance their status to Platinum in 2021. 

The partnership has recently seen success with two veterans gaining meaningful long-term employment with World Fuel Services Australia.

Soldier On CEO, Ivan Slavich said it has been an honour to work with World Fuel Services Australia to improve their practices and continue their support of our veteran community.

“It is wonderful to see an active supporter of the veteran community stepping up and further enhancing the support they provide. With the award of Platinum Pledge status, Soldier On recognises World Fuel Service Australia’s dedication and commitment to supporting veteran employment and its drive to always strive for more – instilling veteran and family-supportive processes and workplace culture across their organisation,” Mr Slavich said.   

“We hope that more organisations like World Fuel Service Australia will come on board. For every company that signs the Soldier On Pledge, we are one step closer to enabling more veterans and their families to secure their future,” Mr. Slavich added.

The Soldier On Pledge gives organisations a chance to publicly thank Australian Defence Force Personnel for their service and recognise the exemplary skills, leadership and training of those who have served Australia. Organisations that sign the Pledge commit to learning more about the skills and attributes that Defence personnel, veterans, and family members can bring to their organisation.

World Fuel Service Australia Senior Director and former Australian Regular Army Brigadier, David Wainwright, said the company is committed to supporting veterans and fostering an inclusive environment that ensures that any veteran joining the team is set up for success.

“We know and value the unique skills sets that any veteran brings to the team, and understand their needs, first-hand.  As a company, we pride ourselves as an inclusive team, that both empowers, and invests in our people who have served,” Mr Wainwright said.

Mathew Brummell, a former Australian Regular Army Warrant Officer and latest member of the WFS Australia team, said he was delighted to have been a participant in the Pathways Program and was fortunate to be able to draw upon the tailored support available which enabled his smooth transition to a new career.   

“I personally appreciated the advice and guidance that I was provided. It enabled me to join the World Fuel Services team and work in an environment that genuinely values the skills sets and principles that are important to any veteran,” Mr Brummell.  

Programmed Signs Virtual Pledge with Soldier On

MEDIA RELEASE – Soldier on welcomes Programmed’s commitment to supporting veteran employment

National veteran support organisation Soldier On, has formally welcomed Programmed as the newest Soldier On Pledge partner, during a virtual Pledge signing ceremony. Representatives from Soldier On in Canberra along with ex-ADF member Jaimie Loffley from Programmed Skilled Workforce in Melbourne, took part in the video-linked signing of the Soldier On Pledge.

The new partnership will enable more veterans and their family members to secure their future careers. The Pledge signing can be viewed on YouTube.

Soldier On Chief Executive Officer, Ivan Slavich said; “Soldier On is delighted to welcome Programmed as a Gold Pledge partner. By signing the Soldier On Pledge, Programmed has made a tangible commitment to supporting Veterans and their families and to provide veteran-friendly recruitment, retention and workplace culture.

We are proud to be working together to help enable more Veterans and their families to thrive and believe that our partnership will enable more Veterans and their family members to secure long-term meaningful employment.”

The Soldier On Pledge is part of the Pathways Program, which provides veterans and their families with free employment and education support to enable them to secure their future career. The Soldier On Pathways Program is supported by funding from the Australian Government and Department of Veterans’ Affairs “Enhanced Employment Support for Veterans” Program.

The Soldier On Pledge encourages companies to learn more about the veteran community, recognise the skills acquired in the Australian Defence Force, and make a tangible commitment to providing ongoing veteran employment opportunities and veteran-supportive initiatives including workplace wellness programs. Organisations who sign the new Soldier On Pledge, publicly commit to providing veteran-friendly recruitment, retention, training and workplace culture.

Since the launch of the new Soldier On Pledge in September 2020, more than 65 companies have signed the Soldier On Pledge, committing to providing veteran-supportive employment opportunities. With representatives from a variety of organisations signing the Soldier On Pledge across Australia.

Programmed Staffing CEO Nic Fairbank said;

“We are pleased to have pledged our support to Soldier On – creating career pathways and employment for veterans and their families. As one of Australia’s leading staffing, operations and maintenance businesses, we are committed to helping Australia’s find employment and develop careers, as well as supporting businesses to thrive.  We currently employ over 60 ex-defence personnel and many more partners and families of Veterans, and highly value their contribution to Programmed.

We have been supporting Veterans and their families for a long time and look forward to continuing and extending this commitment with Soldier On.”

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