A veterans perspective on work placements

Creating work placement opportunities for Service Leavers is a win win situation for both your company and for the person undertaking your programme. They are a great way for transitioning military personnel and Service Leavers to gain vital first-hand experience of the civilian workplace and employers can find out about the benefits of employing ex-military personnel.

Here we chat to Nicholas Trowell, a former Captain in the Army, who took part in Barclays’ work placement programme for Service Leavers in 2013. He is now Business Control Director within the Client Control Office at Barclays.

What is your military background?

I left my role as Battalion's Operations Officer in the Army at the end of 2013. As a Battalion's Operations Officer, I was the lead on all policy, training, development and learning when in Barracks. When deployed on Operations, I was in charge of the risk and control management of mission planning and execution.

What was your transition plan?

During my transition, I was looking at pursuing two key industries - Financial Services and Energy. I heard about Barclays’ work placement programme through word of mouth and completed the two weeks’ placement during the end of my transition period.

Why did you decide to do a work placement?

The placement programme appealed to me on many levels. During your resettlement, a common thing to do is to complete courses and to try and build your profile through attending those - which is definitely worthwhile but they shouldn’t be done in isolation. Having the opportunity to go to an organisation and understand their culture, demystify what it is they do is really important.

I think a really important one for Service Leavers transitioning is learning how to articulate their own experiences in the context of another industry sector, which has its own vocabulary and own way of doing things. I think lots of people struggle to do that so any time immersed in a business outside of the Armed Forces is of huge value.

Whilst I was still pursuing potential opportunities in the energy sector, I saw the placement as a great opportunity all round. Also, I think getting a corporate stamp on your CV adds a bit of credibility and interest as well. It’s a good talking point when you go to interviews and sets you apart from others.   

What made Barclays transition programme so worthwhile?

The experience was hugely beneficial. For me, the most beneficial aspects of the placement were learning what a bank actually does, networking, building contacts and learning how to articulate my experiences in a relevant, meaningful way. And it doesn’t have to be a big formal placement programme. It can be something Service Leavers can proactively try and set up - almost offering to do job shadowing or shared learning for a day or two.

What happened once you’d completed the placement?

I spotted a role on Barclays’ external job board and applied, starting as an Operational Risk Partner. I took the role of Business Control Director within the Chief Controls Office, supporting ‘ventures’ and ‘retail segments’ in July 2018. It helped having done the placement as it was something I could reference in the interview when they talked about motivations for joining Barclays. I could genuinely say, the culture resonates, I could say I had an insight into the organisation, so it definitely helped.

Would you recommend Barclays as a Service Leaver?

Barclays is a great place for ex-military personnel to forge their new career as Service Leavers are highly valued. It is such a big organisation, it is bigger than the regular Armed Forces put together - almost 130,000 colleagues, so, there’s a huge breadth and diversity of roles and opportunities and I think the skills that Service Leavers bring are really valued.

Are you still involved in the Barclays After programme?

Yes I have a key role in delivering the programme with Sue Bomphray. Hopefully at the end of the two weeks, the route the candidates would like to take is with Barclays and we can hopefully find the right opportunity for them. Equally, if they come away thinking maybe Financial Services isn’t for me - then that is not lost time. On the contrary, we are very much doing these placements to help Service Leavers in any way we can.

Why do you think businesses should provide work placements for Service Leavers?

From an employer’s perspective, it is about broadening their horizons - having exposure to talented individuals that come from a very different background. And it’s not just one way. The business can learn from the Service Leaver - having that fresh set of eyes and different perspective.

Find out more about Barclays’ AFTER programme