HighGround charity starts a new chapter

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Logo: Highground

By Anna Baker Creswell

I started HighGround Charity in 2013 to help more people achieve Life beyond the military – Outdoors.

Those who join the military to serve their Country are predominantly outdoors folk and during the time I had been running Gardening Leave, the charity I started in memory of my Mother to bring Horticultural Therapy to the military in the UK, I met many people both serving and veterans, who knew they didn’t want to work in an office but didn’t know where to start exploring with they did want to do.

As we enter our 8th busy year and I look forward to the arrival of Tim our first Rural Employment Manager generously funded by The Royal Foundation, I am so grateful for the support, leadership and encouragement of Ian Elliott our fantastic Chairman of Trustees and the many, many people who have funded, presented and connected to help the people who find HighGround on their journey towards Life beyond the military – Outdoors.

The next chapter will be even more exciting!

HighGround is not a recruitment agency; we approach the question of employment - such a crucial factor for those who make a successful transition from the military back to civilian life - from the perspective of the HighGrounder not the employer which means our first priority is the HighGrounder rather than an agency whose priority is, quite rightly, their client the employer.

As a charity, we don’t charge HighGrounders for the advice and support service we provide; my job is to keep the message about what we do simple, so those who choose to support us can do so with ease and total confidence. The charity world is full of good intentions….

Having made the decision that office life isn’t for you but the land-based sector is, where to start..?!

We don’t have an advertising budget and most people find us by word of mouth, which is also how we found CJS.

Once an individual has contacted us, our challenge is to help them to work out how their military skills and experience map into the land-based sector; whereabouts in the UK they want to work; what sort of employer they want to work for (the Queen has been for many, their only employer…) or perhaps like Jamie below, they have had enough of giving and taking orders and want to work for themselves.

Once we have nailed the basics, it’s time to open Pandora’s Box and help people to explore Conservation, Forestry, Agriculture and the many other diverse areas of the land-based sector we have identified where military skills, experience and values are the best fit.

Our wonderful friend and supporter Steve Davis found his way from the Army to Dorset Wildlife Trust where the problem-solving, teamwork and organisational skills he brought with him were probably more obvious than the observational ones amassed throughout his Army career which enabled him to comb the heathlands for rare species of butterfly……

Military life also teaches people skills which as more of us want to access our shrinking countryside, are ever more needed by Local Authorities and all those who are custodians of our National Parks and heritage landscapes.

The ability to respond quickly during situations with humour, decisiveness and tact is something which many military people fail to recognise is a hugely valuable skill to many employers, and one which at HighGround we are keen to emphasise.

Every individual who leaves the military has a different set of life circumstances, expectations and needs. Some will have young families and mortgages and will need to find full time employment quickly whilst others may have joined the military at 16 and have come to the end of their service but still have a lot to give and are looking for their next chapter.

Our job at HighGround is to help them to work out what they want from their next chapter and how to get them there.

Graham walking away from a bonfire with a chainsaw (HighGround)
Graham (HighGround)

Thank-you to CJS for everything you do to keep the countryside connected – we think you are fab!

Last word goes to Tim:

As a service leaver, soon to be veteran, and with aspirations toward the land-based sector myself, I am aware of the limited support available to service leavers and veterans in identifying and securing meaningful employment in this sector. Equally I am aware of the qualities and skills which have been honed by each individual through their military service. There are remarkable synergies between military training and the aptitude required for land-based sector employment. Some of the more obvious such as management of manpower and resources, operation and maintenance of heavy machinery, logistics and the ability to learn quickly and overcome difficult situations; through some of the less obvious such as being in the right place at the right time with the right equipment, listening, asking relevant questions and understanding and completing the task as directed; to new skillsets such as the management and programming of automated machinery and autonomous vehicles and interpretation of big data into something meaningfully understood to improve yield and cost efficiencies.

Ray standing by a National Trust pickup (HighGround)
Ray (HighGround)

Understanding the above, HighGround have developed the unique Rural Week to aid service leavers and veterans in the decision-making process by exposure and briefing on many aspects of the land-based sector. Additionally, HighGrounders are offered continued support through their journey to meaningful employment. This is achieved through the HighGround network, a continually developing community of land-based organisations and individuals with an interest in supporting service leavers and veterans. So if you can offer work experience, a placement, have a permanent position to fill or would just like to know a little more about supporting service leavers and veterans please get in touch.


Case Studies

Becca standing outside greenhouses with other Highgrounders (HighGround)
Becca - far right (HighGround)

Graham served for 22 years in the Royal Navy and joined us for a Rural Week in 2017. He sent us this picture and said “I’ve left gardening behind now and am a student at Cannington College on the Forestry and Arboriculture course, which is due to finish in June 2020. I have also applied for the Fdsc in forestry and arboriculture course which starts at the end of 2020. I think I’ve found my niche.”

We salute you Graham and are very proud to have helped you along your journey.

Ray served for 23 years and following a Rural Week began his journey as a Long Term Volunteer with the National Trust. This in turn lead to the dream becoming a reality for him when he was employed as an official Ranger at Scotney Castle in Kent. In his words – “I feel indebted to yourself, HighGround and Josie for help with what was most definitely the most daunting decision I’d faced in 23yrs (life after the military). Please keep up the good work as it’s made another difference.”

Becca joined us for a Rural Week while she was still serving in the Royal Navy, having found out about HighGround via the Officers Association. We were delighted when, via Ruralink, she found a job on a dairy farm in Scotland and now has her feet firmly on dry land – go Becca!

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