By Laura Blair

Head of Programme, Centrica Forces Programme

When you think of the ex-forces community, what comes to mind?

For me, it’s a group of talented, highly-skilled individuals that any employer would be lucky to have. 

And I’m really proud to work for a company that thinks the same.

But before we look at how our amazing team at Centrica are backing this community, let me introduce myself.

My story

Before Centrica, the military was 12 years of my life. 

I completed my officer training and joined the British Army straight after university, spending over a decade in personnel roles. From Afghanistan to Iraq, Bosnia to Oman, my job took me around the world. And it was those experiences that shaped who I am today.

While that period was such a huge part of my professional growth, my life looks very different now to how it looked back then! I’m currently Head of the Armed Forces Pathway here at Centrica, working with the incredible team to engage and attract more fresh talent into the company.

But I know that championing the Armed Forces community doesn’t stop at recruitment, which is why I’m honoured to be Co-chair of our Forces network, ensuring ex-services personnel have the right support in place at every stage of their career with Centrica. 

To say that I’m emotionally connected to these initiatives is an understatement. Having lived and breathed the transition from Army to civilian life, the fact that I’m now working every day to help improve the lives of ex-forces members means the world to me. 

The importance of community

Platoon, company or regiment – there’s a sense of community in every corner of the military. And that’s one of the main reasons why our internal Forces network means so much to its members.

From offering wellbeing support to volunteering for military charities, our 400+ strong network has been active from the moment it started in 2021. Operating as a support system for our ex-services personnel, members are always on hand to talk, listen and help make bad days better. 

Crucially, this level of support is given to colleagues at every step of their Centrica journey. The developing “Oppo” scheme is a great example of this, pairing a member of the network with a new recruit to provide support and a friendly face from day one. 

Embarking on a new path

So why is it beneficial for a business to hire members of the ex-forces community? 

Skills, skills and more skills! 

Our vast and varied skill set is transferable to any workplace – with resilience, creativity and the ability to think outside the box all qualities that most employers look for, including those in the energy industry.

This is why our network launched the Armed Forces Pathway – a programme designed to engage, support, hire and develop service leavers, veterans, reservists and military spouses/partners in Centrica.

Through the Pathway, we’ve been building a net zero Battalion, working towards our target of hiring 500 colleagues. Since April 2022, we’ve brought over 190 into Centrica, and we’re focused on and on our way to achieving our target.

But the Pathway isn’t just about recruitment. 

Created by our ex-forces community, we offer a focused package of support that’s designed to nurture new recruits throughout their Centrica journey.

One of the individuals getting the most out of this support package is Alex Smith – a former sniper with the 2 Rifles. 

Alex's story

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Alex Smith British Gas video

Video: Watch Alex's story

In 2013, he was involved in two explosions during tours of Afghanistan, leaving him with PTSD, as well as damaged hearing and eyesight. Alex’s transition from the Army was challenging, which is why he was “delighted” to discover our Armed Forces Pathway, describing it as an opportunity he “couldn’t turn down”.

Alex now works as a fully qualified gas engineer, a role that gives him the “stability” he needs to “provide for [his] family” while “opening up a lot of routes for progression into green energy.”  

A bright future

Backing this talented community is so rewarding, and the praise we get from other organisations and institutions (including the UK Government!), is a great reminder that we’re on the right track. 

For over a decade we’ve been a signatory of the Armed Forces Covenant, which reinforces our commitment to support the Armed Forces community. In 2022, we received the silver Defence Employer Recognition Scheme – an award celebrating our inclusive approach to recruitment and retention when it comes to the ex-forces community. And this year, it was an honour to then be awarded gold for the first time in Centrica’s history! 

But there’s still work to do…

Moving forward, I’d love the network to keep growing, with a focus on engaging more women from across the Armed Forces community into Centrica. I’d love those numbers to be more and more diverse, made up of a mix of service leaders, veterans, reservists, military spouses and supporters. 

I’m also keen to get the network involved in more charities, whether that’s Forces Employment Charity, The Royal British Legion, Help 4 Heroes or military organisations that operate at a regional and local community level. 

But more than anything, I want everyone here at Centrica, and beyond, to keep supporting the Pathway.

Your second adventure 

One final word from me, to anyone leaving the military:

I’ve been through that journey myself, and I know what it feels like.

It’s daunting. It’s stressful. It’s scary. But it’s also really exciting. 

You’re about to go on your second adventure. And I couldn’t think of a better place to start that journey than at Centrica.

A night to remember 

Congratulations to Director of Home Installations at British Gas David Roberston – for being crowned Advocate of the Year at the 2023 Scottish Ex-Forces in Business Awards! And a huge well done to Daniel Weddle, Senior Project & Programme Manager, for his nomination. This event was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate all the progress we’ve made so far –  and get excited about what’s to come. 

Ex Forces