From Corps of Royal Engineers to M&E Quantity Surveyor


Dan Tranter served in the Corps of Royal Engineers, for over 18-years, leaving in May 2023. “My last role in the Armed Forces was a Tp SSgt of the holding troop at a training regiment. My role included discipline, general day to day management of troop programme (ITR led training or organising external Cbt Engr tasks (at one time 400 people), manging 12 JNCO’s, the duties of ARCMO for the troop, which involved trainee postings to first unit, or arranging taking on strength at first unit and administrating their movement to the next trade training phase. On a typical day, I would arrive in work for 0730hrs, attend first parade with JNCO’s as lead. Arrange appointments in my office for trainees facing major disciplinaries, to facilitate updates and appointments for police interview or to conduct Assisting Officer duties. Self-led PT. Catch up with JNCO’s as to training issues requiring support and JNCO’s administering postings. Afternoon filled with liaison between units, JPA work, liaison with APC Glasgow, and Unit ARCMO’s.

With regards to my own skills, my people skills are enhanced, self-discipline and attention to detail are all military skills I’ve brought forward into my civvy role. The habit of conducting tasks to the best of my ability is serving me well as a civilian. Presentation skills are second nature to service leavers whereas I have encountered people who are really nervous about it in the new civilian role. Life experience – living abroad, being away from home comforts, it all gives you a confidence that civilians rarely get to experience. It enhances your can-do approach and problem-solving skills.

I am now a Mechanical and Electrical Quantity Surveyor with AtkinsRéalis. During resettlement I signed up with BuildForce. I attended some of their lunchtime virtual career chats presented by Veterans now in industry, including a Quantity Surveying chat, giving me faith, this was a career path I could pursue. After having my career workshop, BuildForce sent out my CV to their employers. I was invited to an interview with AtkinsRéalis (then Faithful+Gould) and given interview prep by BuildForce. I was invited back to a second interview and offered the role in Dec 22. My last day in uniform Jan 23. Started onboarding May 23 after all leave was taken.

Studying a civilian degree in my own time prepared me the most, personally. That made me an attractive hire to most employers. The biggest help came from BuildForce because they saw the value I had to offer and paired that perfectly with businesses looking to grow their teams. BuildForce also helped craft my CV to coincide with the industry I was looking to join, and they were also able to put me and other service leavers in the right rooms with the right people to find the right match.

I couldn’t provide a definite availability date to AtkinsRéalis. This slowed the process a little. It didn’t mean the company lost interest though. You can see how if you don’t know when you can provide a firm start date, then there’s not a lot an employer can do but wait. Other challenges were ensuring that employers understood the transferable skills I had. I had managed a large amount of people before I left, which in civilian terms is executive leadership level responsibility (Directors). This is great when thinking about progression in 10-15 yrs time but doesn’t help hiring you in the moment. That’s why the other skills need to come through in interview such as managing your own workload and meeting deadlines etc.

I would like to have seen more work placements being offered during resettlement. Especially if you have accepted an offer and are waiting 6 months for your start date. This is difficult though as legally businesses cannot allow access for non-employees to confidential information, so their hands are tied. There’s probably nothing that can be done on this point, I can’t help thinking that having regular work placements during terminal leave etc would soften the landing and enhance the employee’s performance from the start date.

My role as an M&E QS is responsible for the costs of the mechanical and electrical elements of construction such as plumbing, PV and cabling as opposed to the bricks and timber. My employer is on the client side of construction so there is a lot of estimation of costs for the client, who will then send it out to tender from contractors. Due to transferable skill sets, I have also picked up some Programme Management for a contractor which is unusual for the company I joined. It is an effective way to increase understanding and learn the new craft from different points of view. Bottom line is I didn’t think I’d be doing anything other than Quantity Surveying so the opportunity for variety is a welcome surprise.

A typical day is to decide whether to work from home or go into the office (completely my decision). The company likes us in the office 2-3 days per week but sometimes the nature of the work means it’s better to work from home. Unless you’re never seen in the office it’s really not a problem. It’s nice to catch up with colleagues in the office anyway. Start at 8am (this is something I like to keep going and found odd to change after leaving the army anyway). I can then leave/finish around 4pm. Sometimes it’s necessary to work later but that’s only when I’ve got my teeth into something that I don’t want to leave until the following day. Probably have 2-3 meetings a day 30 mins to an hour each. The rest of the time is ongoing work for projects I’ve been assigned to or checking in with my boss once I’ve reached a turning point in the work and I need direction for the next phase.

Skills I most reply on are people skills – being able to talk to people at all levels. Confidence – once I’ve had a task explained to me, I can generally run with it myself with little supervision. Proactiveness – having the drive to get on with things instead of leaving things until the last minute. Recognising when you can just do something, and doing it, instead of leaving it until someone tells you to do it or asking for permission all the time.

Advice I would give to someone who is leaving the Armed Forces and seeking a new career in construction is to be yourself. Don’t try to be someone they want. That way you are employed for who you are and skills you bring which are incredibly valued and sometimes rare in civilian employment. Be willing to work hard and be a sponge that absorbs as much as possible all the time. Manage your expectations by realising you do know a lot, but not everything, so don’t be afraid of saying “I don’t know I’ve not done that before”. On the other side of that coin, it’s amazing how many times your experience will surprise you, so trust your instincts. Example: I had to go through IT to add a printer to my laptop – I thought it was a really convoluted process to add a printer, thinking it can’t be as easy as it was in the army. It wasn’t. When the IT colleague accessed my computer, I realised I’d added printers to my MOD laptop loads of times with no help and this was no different.

Three words to describe a career in construction are team exciting, innovative with endless opportunities. To describe a Veteran is hardworking, motivated and a team asset.”