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Do War Veterans Have a Place in the Trade?

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Armistice day is an opportunity to remember the service and sacrifice of those who have defended our country.

In 2019, we were fortunate enough to meet David Birrell, who after losing both of his legs while serving in Afghanistan in 2010, didn’t think he would be able to walk again. It wasn’t long after his rehabilitation that he was offered a job with I Grant Contractors and became a ceiling fitter.

Why construction?

Construction is often a popular choice of career for ex-military personnel.  It makes sense because of the similarities in skills required for both jobs. Building sites require discipline, teamwork and a range of other talents that ex-armed forces have already learned.

In addition to honing his existing skills, David was forthcoming about the benefits that working in the trade had on his mental health since working in the armed forces.

“Working in the trade keeps me going, and I’m thinking about the job rather than thinking about anything else. It does keep my mind away from my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, in ways.”

– David Birrell, Army veteran and tradesperson

“Mentally, I think it’s given him a bit of a purpose again. If you can imagine being surrounded by your squaddies, everybody is there, everybody’s part of this close-knit family… His work gives him that ‘get-up-and-go’. It just gives him a reason to get out of bed, I suppose.”

– Ian Grant, David’s former employer

The opportunities

According to the Labour Force Survey in 2017, people with disabilities make up around 9.3% of the construction industry workforce. There’s so much that the disabled community, including military veterans with disabilities, can offer the construction industry. So, there’s no reason this number can’t be much higher.

In fact, double amputee David Birrell considers his disability to be somewhat of a benefit when carrying out his role in the trade:

“It is good, in a way, to have no legs when working on a building site. I can get a lot closer to the jobs. I just take my legs off, put them to the side, and people can work over the top of me so I’m not really a hindrance.”

The resources

There are a number of resources available in the UK for ex-military personnel looking to join the trade, including The Trades Brigade and Veterans Next Step.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to support ex-military tradespeople, you can visit Building Heroes Property Services.

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