We are delighted to announce that Colin Grimes has joined the TechVets team as our new Training Coordinator. In this blog we find out more about his service background and what motivated him to apply for the TechVets role.
When did you join the military?
10 January 1990, 1 month before I turned 18
Who did you serve with?
Royal Air Force
What career path did you initially follow when you left the military?
Trained and worked as a primary school teacher specialising in computing and PE.
Why did you decide to leave?
My final years in the military, whilst fantastic from a job point of view, put a lot of strain on my family life. When I returned from Afghanistan in 2011 it kicked off a lot more time away. Seeing my daughter burst into tears when they saw my bag at the bottom of the stairs was the final piece of the jigsaw in my thought process.
Once you’d signed off, how did you feel?
Relief/fear/panic all at the same time. It was forced on me by my drafter who wanted to move me into a job I no longer wanted.
How did you tackle the resettlement process? What was your plan?
Initially there was no plan – which caused problems at home. I was approached by a company via LinkedIn for a well-paying job working in Iraq. After a series of interviews the company I would have been working on a contract for decided that I didn’t have all the skills they required (nobody did – they offered me the job 12 months later).
Then I learned about the Troops to Teachers programme and applied, not thinking I had a chance. This gave me the opportunity to study for a degree, whilst working in a school and getting paid.
What did you enjoy about the military?
Travel, team work and comradery. Working with other nations was always entertaining and challenging but a shared sense of purpose helps you get through.
What qualities did it give you to survive in the outside world?
I think the military gives you a unique perspective in problem-solving. Having to come up with workable solutions, quickly and under immense pressure helps focus the mind. One particular example was at the start of the initial Covid lockdown where I led our school’s response to developing remote learning systems.
Do you regret leaving the military?
Job no, people yes. I think the military provides a support blanket for some.
What were your main concerns when you were leaving the military?
Money – I took a gamble in the teacher training scheme with a £20k drop in pay from my military salary. However, the long term goal paid off. I already had a house where I wanted to settle and my wife had a good job. We were able to offset the loss in salary with her taking a promotion at work and, thankfully, my military pension.
Who’s been your main role model or mentor?
I’ve been lucky to have worked with an amazing bunch of people since leaving the military and was able to build up a support network through social media (teachers are a very active community on Twitter!). This allowed me to have lots of people I could use for support which conversely put a lot of people in touch with me for support. I think the military mindset helps us seek out similarly minded people wherever we are working.
How has TechVets or a similar organisation or veteran community supported you?
Fortunately, my teacher training was set up purely for the veteran community – I’d imagine it was possibly the hardest teacher training that anyone had ever lectured on as we asked a lot more questions!
However, having that number of veterans all training together was fantastic and the levels of knowledge that we were able to exchange was amazing.
Why did you decide to join TechVets as the Training Coordinator?
After 8 years in education, it was time for a change. My wife is a headteacher and two people in the same household working in education, whilst having its perks is not ideally matched to having 2 children in secondary school.
I researched the service that TechVets provide and felt that this was another way to give back to the community that gave me a career for a lot of years.
What are you most keen to get started on in this new role?
I think that this is a very exciting time to join TechVets and the wider Forces Employment Charity Programme teams. There’s lots of work going on to add partners and families to our training offer and, having been a computing coordinator in primary, I think there’s a lot we can offer our younger service dependents to enable them to succeed in the future.
What advice would you give to people in the military who are considering leaving but are too scared to go through the seven clicks to freedom?
Plan! Then plan again. Too many push the button on a knee-jerk whim (I was one of them) and aren’t really aware of the options open to them. It is vitally important to think of the sector you want to work in then make your plans accordingly. The advent of more remote working opens up far more opportunities and we shouldn’t be scared to explore these options.
Ultimately there is a world of employment out there for service leavers. We have to be better at selling ourselves, particularly with soft skills.
But don’t leave without a plan…
Could you join the TechVets team? We are still recruiting for a Community Lead, check out the job spec here: https://rfea.peoplehr.net/Pages/JobBoard/Opening.aspx?v=951f555d-c367-4c43-a812-fe785dea3833