In 2005, I decided to forget University and do something else. That “something else” ended up being the Royal Air Force. Some would say that was a drastic choice. Unfortunately, I had a 13-month intense Communications Engineering course to get through before I became a fully fledged member of the RAF. It was on this course where I first met David. Our course started with 12 students. We lost 6 through injury or failure and gained 3 more from other courses who had been injured or “back coursed”. In 2007, we successfully graduated from the course, with David winning a trophy for the highest overall score on exams (what a swot). I was just happy to graduate! We then both received our posting orders. I was posted to a deployable mobile air defence radar unit based in Lincolnshire, whereas David was posted to a tactical communications unit based in Oxfordshire.
In 2009, I deployed to Afghanistan for 4 months. In the last few days of the deployment, I transferred to Kandahar Air Base where I would get on my flight home. Fortunately, I had a bit of time to kill so went to the “boardwalk”. This was a “chillout area” where you could buy coffees and snacks etc. It was also the only place where you could get WiFi signal, so it was always busy! In the crowd, I saw a familiar face. It was David! After a quick 10-minute catch-up, I was on my way to my flight home, and David had to go back to work. It was a brief re-encounter, but a big coincidence nonetheless - and after that, the coincidences just kept on coming!
Iain (2nd from left standing), David (2nd from left seated) Pass Out Parade
After a few years of deployments to various countries, mostly in desert regions, I was promoted and posted to a signals unit in North Yorkshire. To my total surprise, David had also been posted there a few months before me. However, it was at this time I decided to call time on my service and settle in the North East with my now wife. So, again our catch up was brief and my transition period began…
"I just needed to convince a company that I had transferable skills and the experience to do that specific job. Something a lot of service leavers have a hard time with."Iain Chilvers
I chose to follow the Network Engineering path as I already had some of the basic qualifications and had been working in that field for the last 4 years. I just needed to convince a company that I had transferable skills and the experience to do that specific job. Something a lot of service leavers have a hard time with. Luckily, I came across an IT company based in Newcastle called Forfusion, and they were looking for Network Support Engineers for their Managed Services function. I swiftly applied and then researched the company using their website. Whilst browsing the site, I noticed that Forfusion offered a Civilian Work Attachment scheme specifically designed for service leavers. The scheme gives a service leaver a one-week work experience attachment, and if there is a position available, a potential job at the end. A fantastic opportunity in my eyes.
To my amazement, after an interview, I was offered a Network Engineer role within Forfusion. Right place, right time probably played a large part in that success, but still a huge weight off my shoulders and a happy wife! Through the power of social media, I got in contact with David who told me he was also leaving the RAF and was looking to settle in Newcastle (what are the chances?!). I told him about the CWA scheme that Forfusion offered, and a few months later he was sat behind me in the Forfusion office on his one-week work experience! After proving he sort of knew what he was doing, David was also offered a Network Engineer role. No trophy this time though. And our stint of brief encounters was set to become a long-term fixture (and friendship).
"It’s great to see Forfusion are willing to recognise the skills that a service leaver can bring to the company."Iain Chilvers
David Withington on deployment in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan
Forfusion has since expanded and moved into larger premises, where we now sit next to each other sharing our stories and sick sense of humour. It’s great to see Forfusion are willing to recognise the skills that a service leaver can bring to the company.
It was only after I joined the company that I became aware that two of the founding members of Forfusion are service leavers, and there is many more ex-service personnel in other areas of the company. I also urge any service leaver looking to get into the IT world to consider the Forfusion CWA scheme. Even if there isn’t a position available, you will go away with some vital experience and a write-up.
Iain Chilvers (left), David Withington (right)
Armed Forces Day 2018 will be held on Saturday 30 June. If you're a service leaver interested in obtaining work experience within Unified Communications, Networks, Security or Data Centre technologies, find out more about our Civilian Work Attachment Scheme today.