13 February 2023

New partnership links job-ready defence veterans with supportive business owners

| Katrina Condie
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Susan Cummins, Lynne Duckham

Right Management account director Susan Cummins and SME Gateway senior engagement executive Lynne Duckham are working together to help defence veterans find new careers. Photo: Liv Cameron.

After getting their heads together at a defence tradeshow last year, two women have kick-started a new partnership that is helping to connect small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with ready-to-work defence force veterans and their family members.

Canberra-based SME Gateway senior engagement executive Lynne Duckham and Right Management account director Susan Cummins are both passionate about helping veterans secure their dream jobs after leaving the defence force, and their newfound partnership is opening up a whole world of opportunities.

Lynne said, once she heard about what Right Management was doing for veterans and their partners, she was keen to find out how SME Gateway could partner with them.

Transitioning from defence into a civilian job can be daunting for vets and their partners, but Susan and her team are helping them upskill and prepare for a career change.

Growing and developing small businesses can also be daunting, and Lynne saw an opportunity to help SMEs, by giving them access, when seeking new staff, to the skills and abilities of work-ready ex-defence personnel.

Providing more than 500 SME Gateway members an opportunity to opt into the program means businesses across multiple sectors in Australia have the opportunity to employ veterans and their partners.

“It’s a win for all,” Lynne said.

READ ALSO Mike Johnson steps in as Acting CEO at SME Gateway

She said getting used to working in a non-defence environment could be very different for someone who was used to being in a uniform, and transitioning their skills to a civilian workplace could be difficult.

“I love the fact that Right Management is also addressing the needs of the veterans’ partners – who have frequently given up a great deal career-wise to support their defence force partner. Now they also benefit from this training and coaching,” she said.

“I wanted to enable SME Gateway to do more to help our veterans, so it was great to learn what Susan and Right Management were doing.”

As part of its continued support for veterans, SME Gateway is now working with Right Management to provide its members with the opportunity, when looking for new employees, to access and consider recently retrained and coached work-ready veterans and their partners.

“These potential employees have a diversity of skills and experience that can benefit businesses and organisations across multiple sectors,” Lynne explained.

“When I contacted our members about partnering with Right Management, many came back saying thank you, and it was brilliant. They were really keen to employ veterans and their families.”

Falling under the ManpowerGroup talent solutions umbrella, Right Management is the contracted Commonwealth provider of career coaching and transition services to the Department of Defence.

Susan said the veteran training service was about mentoring the individual and helping to identify their skills and strengths, and how they could be applied in other workplaces.

“The focus is on the individual, who they are and what they want to do. We’re not a jobs board,” she said.

“We’ve had veterans that have landed jobs in government and defence-related sectors, while others have gone on to become real estate agents, dog trainers or to further education – honestly, it’s everything, because their past doesn’t dictate their future.

“We find out what people are interested in, open doors for them and make the warm introductions.

READ ALSO More staff, resources on way for Veterans’ Affairs, says Minister

“Partnering with SME Gateway has been amazing because so many of the companies are genuinely interested in supporting our veterans.”

She said Right Management’s methodology helped people discover “who they are and what they want to do” by helping them to build a resume to match their career goals, improve their social media and interview skills and also give them the confidence to negotiate salary and employment conditions.

ManPower Group chief operating officer Glenn McPhee, a former major in the Australian Army, has welcomed the collaboration which he said was breaking down the employment barriers for veterans.

“There has been a stereotypical mindset about what military individuals are like as workers,” he said.

“But that is changing for the better.”

He said veterans brought a diverse range of hard and soft skills to the table including tertiary education, established trade qualifications, leadership, teamwork, good communication and sound workplace values.

Some veterans have chosen to volunteer with the Rural Fire Service or other charitable organisations, while others have secured work in the private sector, on farms or started their own businesses.

“The myriad of places vets end up and the types of success stories blows my mind,” Glenn added.

SME Gateway members can now deal directly with Right Management when seeking new employees, and can elect to receive a Job Connections list each week which showcases job-ready vets seeking employment.

SME Gateway provides federal and state governments, defence and industry clients with direct access to more than 500 Australian member businesses nationwide and helps local, indigenous and veteran small and medium enterprises to grow their companies.


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