HighGround 10 years on

Logo: HighGround

By Anna Baker Cresswell, Executive Director

A group of people dressed smartly and posing up a large staircase
10th Anniversary lunch RAF Club. 13th March, 2023 (Highground)

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

We marked our 10th Birthday in March with a lunch at the RAF Club in London to thank all the wonderful volunteers including our first Trustees, for giving their precious time and skills to help with HR, PR, book keeping, marketing and so much more as we worked to build our brand and communicate our Mission within and beyond the armed forces community.

It’s fantastic to be able to welcome Jamie Crisp our first CEO, and in December, he will be joined by Heather, our new Operations Manager which will enable us to expand our capacity and widen our network of employers across the land-based sector.

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.

A man kneeling next to a fallen tree using a chainsaw
Jim is now working on an estate in Herefordshire (Highground)

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 Crown (Queen Elizabeth and now King Charles) 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.

Two men holding up equipment and smiling for the camera
We work closely with Hi Line SW (Highground)

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.

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

The services we offer which started as a Rural Week at Plumpton College in 2014 funded by the CLA Charitable Trust and the Army Benevolent Fund, now include Virtual Rural Weeks (our response to Covid-19) and Rural Experience Weeks which have a focus of improving mental health and wellbeing, whereas Rural Weeks are employment-focused. We ran our 43rd Rural Week at Bicton College in Devon, and only just completed our first Rural Week at Askham Bryan College near York.

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.

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Posted On: 15/11/2023

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