Armed Forces Day - Laura Hooper

Published: 28 June 2024

Ahead of Armed Forces Day 2024 (Saturday 29 June), we sat down with People and Culture Director Laura Hooper to discuss her nine-year stint in the Royal Air Force.

What service did you serve in Laura?

I joined the RAF in 1990. My first posting in Personnel and Training was to the joint headquarters in Northwood, the Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ). Part of Strategic Command, PJHQ is based in Northwood and commands joint and multinational military operations on behalf of the Ministry of Defence. This area was mostly staffed by Royal Navy personnel, so I soon became integrated into the Navy ways rather than the RAF! I did a few short tours in Northern Ireland, Gibraltar, Germany, and other places before I returned to PJHQ.

What are your key takeaways from your time serving?

The armed forces have a strong sense of teamwork and collaboration in the armed forces and have perfected their training and mindset. In a combative environment, you need to rely on your peers, hence the focus in this area. The friendships last forever. I don’t think any ex-force people do not ensure they stay in touch or meet up with ex-colleagues no matter where they are. If you need help or support, there is always someone there to listen or provide a helping hand. There is also a permanent focus to be your best and deliver your best, with the forces support with continued development throughout your career.

How did you find your transition to civilian life?

Transitioning into civilian life was a challenge for me. I didn’t find that organisations always recognised the transferable skills that armed forces people can bring. I also think that there can be some preconceived misgivings that hiring managers may harbour. Transitioning out of the armed forces and into civilian life involves significant adjustments, but it does offer unique advantages. We bring a wealth of skills honed through our military service, such as leadership, strategic planning, and the ability to perform under pressure. These attributes are highly transferable and valued within business settings. However, the shift also requires adapting to a different organisational culture and developing a new professional network. We often need to translate our military experiences into terms that resonate with civilian employers and sometimes benefit from additional education or training specific to a chosen industry. With support and mindset, the transition can lead to rewarding career opportunities, leveraging the discipline and resilience ingrained through military service.

What skills do you believe an Ex-forces person can bring to Sheffield Forgemasters?

Many people assume that being in the military only involves defence and combat, but that is not the case. Conflict dynamics have dramatically changed over the years. There are more logistics involved than ever. With hundreds of trades and skills across the forces, there is a diverse range of work which ex-military staff are suited for. People leave the forces with exceptional skills related to jobs in IT, logistics, project and people management, catering, avionics, engineering, construction, procurement, human resources and more. Many have good commercial acumen as the military operates, with more complexity than most big organisations in terms of being budget-conscious. The forces often work alongside defence contractors and consultancies, supporting those partners to build in-depth service-level agreements and make competing bids and tenders.

Every soldier, sailor and airman/woman must have discipline. They must constantly think on their feet as situations change quickly to meet objectives. These people must perform in extreme conditions, using the equipment available and are required to be incredibly flexible and take the initiative even under the most stressful situations. Veterans are capable of thinking on their own yet also able to take instruction, implement what is needed and be part of a team. At Sheffield Forgemasters, you can see the same attributes and skills in our employees who carry out pressured roles in our operational areas or manage complexity within customer and planning teams. Skills from the armed forces are highly transferable and applicable to many positions at Sheffield Forgemasters.

We are part of the Armed Forces Covenant, so what are our plans going forward?

We aim to progress from Bronze to Silver Armed Forces Covenant status over the next couple of years, whereby we actively seek opportunities to employ veterans, recognising their valuable skills and experiences gained during military service. We are adding a Forces Recruitment Partner to our preferred supplier list to ensure we have a diverse range of candidates to review for our vacancies. We will participate in programs that facilitate the transition of service leavers into civilian employment, offering training and development opportunities. We will engage more with the armed forces community through various initiatives, recognising the importance of integration, diversity, inclusion, and mutual support, which can add value to our business.

Will we be celebrating Armed Forces Week at Sheffield Forgemasters?

Yes, we will, and this is not just for our ex-force employees but for veterans who worked at Sheffield Forgemasters and fought in WW1 & WW2. We will proudly fly our Armed Forces Covenant flag at Gate One, adjacent to the commemorative plaques for those who fell during the war and share content on social media to show our unwavering support for the armed forces.