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From the armed forces to construction: ISG’s Senior Technical Services Manager shares his story

Category: construction, personal stories, Ex Armed Forces, ISG, careers in construction, Ex Military, Career transition, Career in Construction

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ISG’s Senior Technical Services Manager, Frank Harding, gives his insights on transitioning from the armed forces to construction, and how this can be a perfect partnership.


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The Armed Forces Covenant is a government-backed promise from our nation that those who serve or have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly. This initiative encourages employers to support defence, and one great way is to welcome this talent pool into our workforce.

In 2021, ISG’s commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant was re-affirmed with a bronze award which recognised our supportive company policies and strong network of armed forces champions.

Driven by our vision to diversify ISG’s workforce and continue to expand our armed forces community, we sat down with ex-Chief Marine Engineering Artificer in the Royal Navy and Senior Technical Services Manager for ISG’s UK Fit Out division, Frank Harding.

Frank’s story provides invaluable insight into the transition from life on the front line to the construction site.


Frank, what do you think is the most challenging part of transitioning from the armed forces to a role in the construction industry?

A lot of people leave the armed forces feeling lost having spent their whole life in such a siloed and challenging, yet highly-rewarding job. You do become a bit institutionalised, so it’s really important that businesses can work with these people to open their eyes to more opportunities.

So many ex-military employees don't see how their experience could fit into the built environment, so there's definitely a bigger education piece that needs to happen.


What do individuals from the military bring to businesses like ISG?

The construction industry in particular has a real skills shortage right now, and those who have been in the armed forces have so many skills that sit perfectly in our industry.

When I was in the Royal Navy, I worked with so many people who were practical, solution-focused and never afraid to get stuck in. Welcoming people from outside the traditional routes not only diversifies our offering as a business, but can also help to strengthen it.

The thick skin you grow on the front line is also transferable to this type of industry. You learn how to be diplomatic and also how to make your voice heard, and you work hard to deliver a job showing mutual respect for those around you; this translates well from military to construction.


Frank on board during the Gulf War

Frank on board during the Gulf War


How do you think businesses could create a better and more supportive work environment for current and ex-armed forces employees and their families?

There is a huge pool of talented, dedicated, punctual and driven people leaving the armed forces and desperately wanting to work but not knowing where to start – so both industries can benefit.

It’s all about being understanding and working hard to make the transition as smooth as possible. Ex-armed forces employees and their family members can experience poor mental health and physical struggles as a result of life on the front line, so extra care and patience can be required.

And while the training process may take time, the result will always be worth it. Utilising people like myself to help and mentor can really help businesses to shine as exemplar employers.


How are you staying connected to the armed forces now that you’re in the construction industry?

Since I left the Royal Navy I’ve been a part of an informal ex-armed forces group that spans across various companies in the construction industry. We promote employment opportunities, mental and physical health and share advice around a heap of other things that impact ex-military personnel and relatives; which really helps me to feel linked to people similar to myself.

I’m also part of ISG’s armed forces champions group, and we’re currently working on expanding our network which I’m so pleased about. I’m lucky to have been able to benefit from these initiatives. Some employers are reluctant to support people like me, but it’s great to work for a business that partners with organisations like BuildForce, to create a more supportive and progressive workplace.

We're also attending military careers fairs which is great because it allows me to share advice with the next generation of talent, with a similar mindset and background to my own. We also recruited an assistant surveyor, Tom Hollyoak, via one of the careers fairs last year which made me feel really proud to work for this business.


HMS Edinburgh D97


As part of our ongoing focus to support more employees like Frank, ISG has refreshed its policy and support network for current and ex-armed forces employees and their families. We are committed to developing a more inclusive talent pool, and progressing further initiatives to show our support.


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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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