Opencast boosts support for UK armed forces community

15 July 2021

OC client director Richard Handley explains why and how Opencast is strengthening its commitment to the UK's armed forces community.

In an earlier life, before I joined the Opencast family, I was a soldier – a captain in the Royal Regiment of Artillery. Now in my new(ish) role, I am working to create a new and close relationship between Opencast and the UK armed forces.

To help make that commitment a reality, Opencast is this summer signing up to the UK government’s Armed Forces Covenant, a pledge made by businesses to support serving and former services personnel.

The covenant states: “Those who serve in the Armed Forces, whether regular or reserve, those who have served in the past, and their families, should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services… recognising those who have performed military duty unites the country and demonstrates the value of their contribution.”

I couldn’t agree more – and thankfully, neither could Opencast’s board, which backed me unanimously in committing to a new relationship with our forces community. Opencast recognises the value that serving personnel, reservists, veterans and military families can bring to our business and to our country.

A man in a blue jumper smiling
"We want our commitment to set an example to other businesses right across the UK on what can be done to strengthen links with the armed forces"

Stepping stone

While signing the covenant is important, I see it as a stepping stone. We will be fully supporting the Ministry of Defence’s career transition partnership and we will go even further – what I really want is for Opencast to be a leading light in the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS).

The ERS recognises commitment and support from UK businesses for defence personnel. The scheme comprises bronze, silver and gold awards for employers who provide exceptional support to the armed forces community by going above and beyond their covenant pledges. The ERS isn’t a commitment only to help serving and former military personnel – it helps their families too.

We are obviously aiming for the gold award.

There are two reasons why signing the covenant and joining the ERS are important. Firstly, Opencast is a caring employer that is always looking to give something back. Who better to support than those who have served their country?

Secondly, Opencast is always on the look out for the very best people, and there is a constant pipeline of talent leaving the armed forces – many of them young, tech-savvy soldiers wanting to build a second career.

The right attitude

Soldiers have the right attitudes, skills and discipline to fit straight into an agile team – it’s the way we are trained to work. For instance, in our regiment we had a daily meeting called ‘daily prayers,’ but really it was a ‘daily stand-up’ agile meeting.

Military personnel, veterans and their families are potential change makers. They are trained to learn new skills, to adapt and to face challenges head on. We also have a massive tech skills gap in the UK and there is a talent pool of 14,000 military leavers every year who can help to fill that gap.

I think more and more armed service personnel are serving for shorter periods, so they are leaving the military at a relatively young age looking for what comes next.

These people can be our technology wizards of the future.

I’d like Opencast to help service personnel transition from the armed forces into good, meaningful careers within technology. I want us to be recognised UK wide as a forces-friendly company that understands and welcomes the contributions they can make.

Strong networks

A number of regiments are based in the North East, where OC is headquartered, and there are strong networks for ex-military personnel, and I look forward to working with them. And it’s not just about helping soldiers and other armed forces personnel – it’s about how we can support their families too, particularly when loved ones are serving away from home.

We also want our commitment to set an example to other businesses right across the UK on what can be done to strengthen links with the armed forces.

I’m an example of how that aided transition from military to civilian can and should work.

After studying chemistry at Manchester University I worked at Aviva, then underwent officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

I commissioned into 39th Regiment Royal Artillery as a troop commander, then joined 4th Regiment Royal Artillery as a battery captain and fire support team commander.

Making sure we deliver

I led a six-man team orchestrating support for forward troops, being responsible for communication, planning and risk assessments. I also delivered and developed training opportunities for personnel throughout the regiment.

In five years with the Royal Artillery I completed various exercises and tours, including a tour of Afghanistan.

I was missing my son Harry growing up, so took the decision to leave the forces. I joined the ex-forces programme at global tech recruitment business FDM Group – and that enabled me to transition into civilian life working in technology.

I know what a difference programmes run by committed, welcoming companies can make to former services personnel. I am working hard to help ensure that Opencast is one of the companies delivering on that commitment.


Richard Handley

Client Relationship Director

Related insights