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New life path

Image of BAE employee using an ipad whilst reviewing a military tank in the background. The tank has it's engine exposed for maintenance and is situated within a workshop

Thanks to Soldier On, Private Thomas Apoyan made a successful transition to the civilian workforce.

After nearly eight years in the Army, Private Thomas Apoyan’s training as an electronics systems technician had taught him to be organised, on time, meticulous – and ready for anything. But it wasn’t until the 33-year-old Adelaide-based veteran decided to swap Army life for a civilian role that he realised just how valuable these skills could be to future employers.

 Thomas had given himself nine months to find employment after leaving the Army – while also navigating the planning of his own wedding and purchase of his first property – because he said prospective employers might dismiss him as just another ex-military veteran that could do not much more than hold a rifle.

According to Thomas, the skills veterans acquire during their time in the military are essential for any employer. He says time management, and ability to follow instructions and teamwork alongside a trade, are just a few of the qualities veterans can offer employers.

Instead, just three months into his job search, Defence contractor BAE Systems Australia snapped him up for the same focus and preparedness that he had developed during his life in the military. And it’s this experience that has made Thomas urge other employers to recognise the skills that highly trained veterans could bring to employers.

 “Giving myself a long-lead-time ensured that if there were any setbacks, there was no pressure and could ensure that everything was done correctly.

“I wanted to move away from Defence and find a career where I could stay in one place and have an opportunity to move into a role with more autonomy and ability to practice critical thinking and decision making using my past experiences in operations management and the Australian Defence Forces (ADF).”

However prepared Thomas thought he was, he said there were still doubts whether he’d secure employment that fitted his skills or if an employer would even recognise them. Not knowing what support services are available can heighten the disconnection some veterans feel when making the transition to civilian life and trying to find employment. As Thomas says, this is where Soldier On came into their own.

“Soldier On really helped me on the right path as to where I wanted my career to go post-Defence. They took the time to understand my previous work experience, my skill set and my experiences with the ADF to put me in good stead for a career that I would not only suit but also enjoy.”

BAE Systems Australia CEO Gabby Costigan described the importance of understanding the valuable skills veterans can bring to an employer. “Veterans have enormous value as potential employees because the Australian Government has invested heavily to train servicemen and women over many years in really diverse roles. Service experience is considerable and diverse.

“The skills a veteran brings can add significant value to your bottom line. A lot of military training is directly applicable in civilian operations. Safety. Leadership. Logistics. Project management. And so much more,” Ms Costigan said.

 In July 2021, Thomas attended a Soldier On Pathways Networking Event after hearing about their Pathways program at a Defence transition seminar. He described the event as a “major confidence boost.”

He went on to say, “The event helped me realise that employers did see the benefits of veteran employment and that veteran’s skills outside of the role were valuable. The Pathways program provided networking opportunities with representatives and organisations who were very willing to talk with me and hear about my experiences.”

Thomas initially approached Soldier On’s Pathways team for help to spruce up his CV. However, he received so much more than a new CV, instead, very quickly he impressed not only the team at Soldier On but representatives at BAE Systems Australia, after being put in touch with a Soldier On Ambassador who worked for the Defence contractor. The rest, Thomas says, is history.

“I met up with the Soldier On Ambassador and found out he had already passed my CV around the company and organised for me to meet their representatives that night. From there I interviewed with one of their project teams and was offered a position.

“If I hadn’t taken my time to find out about the resources out there for transitioning veterans, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now. It pays dividends to use the resources available, contact organisations like Soldier On, take your time and see what’s available.”

BAE Systems CEO, Ms Costigan, said: “Thomas’ experience is a great example of skills recognition to support a successful transition to civilian life. We are delighted to partner with Soldier On to support more veterans like Thomas into our workforce.”

National Psychology Services Manager for Soldier On, Joe Losinno said: “Transitions can be a difficult period for veterans, however an organisation like Soldier On understands their perspective and particular way of thinking. Both Soldier On and BAE Systems Australia thrive by building a veteran-centric approach into the heart of their operations. They’re both great examples of how understanding veterans can enrich companies, often in surprising and unexpected ways.”

 After spending his first week at BAE Systems Australia, Thomas says he has settled into his new role and is looking forward to his future post-Defence.

 “BAE Systems didn’t make me feel like a number, they helped me transition into my new role and gave me the time to do so. They are very understanding of where I have come from. A lot of people think of a veteran as just a rifleman, I was very fortunate Soldier On and BAE Systems recognised the skills veterans have.”

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