From the Armed Forces to Air Traffic Management

“Service Before Self” is the principle followed by members of the Armed Forces, and it is an attitude that stays with them for life, making them some of the best employees a company can recruit.

Air Navigation Solutions (ANSL) has for many years actively recruited ex-forces personnel, who may not have extensive commercial Air Traffic Control (ATC) or Air Traffic Engineering (ATE) experience, but who have qualities ANSL regards just as highly.

Vicky Boorer, ANSL’s HR Manager, explains: “We very much look for the right fit in terms of a person and find that if the right attitude and approach is there, then investing in training is a win-win. We also find there is a high validation success rate due to their pre-existing skills, mindset and attitude, so we are more confident on our return in investment from hiring ex-military people.”

ANSL hired Paul Johnston, who served in the RAF for 24 years, as a Senior Air Traffic Engineer (SATE) in August 2018. Paul did not have extensive experience in air traffic management but ANSL recognised his potential and placed him in charge of a team of seven, with responsibility for managing the delivery of business-critical equipment replacement projects and leading the engineering department’s response to Covid-19.

As Paul says: “I am not from an ATC background but was recruited on the strength of my experience in the military and the values that brings into a managerial position. I think ANSL took a bold step in hiring someone without an ATC background for such a role and I consider myself very fortunate. I like to think it is paying off and the skills and experience I said I would bring from my RAF career are bearing fruit.”

James Maliska, ATE Edinburgh

ANSL’s confidence in Paul has been amply rewarded. Paul recruited and coached ANSL’s first engineering apprentices, as well as ANSL’s latest Air Traffic Engineer (ATE) recruit, James Maliska, who served in the RAF for 22 years.

James says: “ANSL regularly takes on military service leavers who do not have any ATC or ATE experience as trainees and invests in them completing the necessary on-the-job training and external courses to become qualified and licensed ATCOs or ATEs. ANSL also recruits ex-forces personnel with military air traffic control or engineering experience and, where required, provides them with training in adapting their skills and experience to a commercial context.” When joining ANSL, James completed his Air Traffic Safety Electronics Personnel (ATSEP) training in just six months.

For Paul, as Manager of the Engineering team, this meant that he was one of the operational managers based at Edinburgh who took part in a 12-month Management Training Programme last year. The Programme was designed to facilitate shared learning and help ensure that employees with a technical background, including ex-forces personnel, are equipped to excel in managerial roles and progress even further, should they wish to.

Adjusting to civilian life and working within a commercial setting can be challenging, and ex-forces personnel at ANSL are given access to a wide range of tools and resources to support them in their resettlement, including a confidential employee helpline and counselling services. It is, however, the ANSL team that tends to have the biggest impact, openly welcoming anyone new into the team and valuing everyone for their unique contribution.




James says: “Everyone wanted to say hello and talk to me, and they knew me by name when I first started. Every question or concern, no matter how daft it seemed, was answered quickly and honestly. It might sound like a cliché, but I couldn’t have asked for a better transition. This made leaving the familiar comfort blanket of the RAF after 22 years’ service for the big wide world of the civilian work force relatively stress free!”

ANSL is committed to recruiting, developing and supporting ex-forces personnel, and is constantly seeking new and better ways to do this. As a result, there is a strong community of ex-forces personnel at ANSL who are amongst its most passionate advocates, and who in return are highly valued and appreciated by ANSL.

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