HighGround - the next 10 years

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Logo: High Ground
Apprentice learning blacksmithing skills over an anvil
Blacksmithing skills learned during a Rural Week led to an apprenticeship in Landscaping (Highground)

It’s hard to believe that this year HighGround will have been in operation for 10 action-packed years.

When I started the Charity it was a distant milestone I never contemplated reaching, but thanks to the support and encouragement of so many people who understood the motivation behind helping those who have served their Country who don’t want to work in an office when their military careers are over, we are going strong and looking towards our next decade of Life beyond the military – Outdoors.

We call those we exist to serve HighGrounders. They are all ranks and ages; we are tri-service and work with the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and RAF.

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.

Man standing in tree surgeon gear holding a chainsaw
Danny Mawson. Ex Para now Tree Surgeon 2. September 2019 (Peter Davies)

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 Sovereign has been for many, their only employer…) or perhaps 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.

Group of people sitting around a campfire during teamwork and improvisation exercises
Forest School uses many skills learned in the military including teamwork, improvisation and 1st aid (Highground)

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.

Veteran with missing arm learning propagation skills
Learning how to adapt propagation skills. Veteran now volunteering in Lancashire (Highground)

What of the next decade?

As the awareness of our work increases and our network of employers and those we have helped into land-based employment grows, we want to spend the next decade developing regional networks throughout the UK so wherever a veteran settles, HighGround will always be able to introduce him or her to people who understand what military experience brings to the workplace and how it maps so perfectly into the land-based sector.

As we thank our current Chairman Ian Elliott for his 6 years of service and look forward to welcoming our new Chair, we say thank-you to CJS for everything you do to keep the countryside connected – we think you are fab!

Anna Baker Cresswell
Founder and Executive Director

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Posted On: 01/03/2023

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