James Keillor

Persimmon Homes

James served for 12 years in the Royal Engineers from 2006 – 2018. He served as a Corporal Explosive Ordnance Disposal/Bridging instructor. A typical day would involve a parade in the morning, either outside the lines or at the physical Training hall for a typical training session. He usually had students to train each day on various courses and would then prepare again for the next day’s lessons.

James learnt three core skills during his service:

Teaching: the Army helped to build his confidence, enabling him to know his abilities, pushing him to work on weaknesses. He was initially unsure/slightly scared to present himself in front of his peers. However, after numerous opportunities to test this, he found he was actually reasonably good and even enjoyed it.

Work ethics / discipline: James has always put in sufficient effort to get the work done but being in the Army has driven him to get the best out of everything. Always showing up 5 minutes early and staying until the job is done right first time has helped him provide a good example in his now civilian role.

Adaptable / confidence: Having been in various situations, some more demanding than others, has given James the ability to adapt to new rules, roles and certainly the varied differences within civvie street. Nerves used to get the better of him, but now he is confident in his abilities, allowing him to know what he can and can’t do.

The fact James was a Royal Engineer was instrumental to him securing his role as Group Health & Safety Advisor for Persimmon Homes, as the interviewer was also a Royal Engineer and was specifically looking for these qualities. During his resettlement he did a number of courses including NEBOSH General and NEBOSH Construction, which provided him a base level to apply for H&S roles. James believes the fact he had ‘a plan’ helped his transition to ‘civvy street’. He obtained qualifications for a number of jobs which gave him options to choose from. But ultimately, James says, you have to find what you like and concentrate on meeting the criteria. James’ personal situation was his biggest challenge during his transition. He found the sale of his house and the search for a new one quite stressful; managing it within the year and only receiving the keys 2 days before leaving. He also found it difficult which advice to heed; although other people’s opinions provided helpful guidance, simultaneously, it was confusing; so he thought it was best to just stick to his own plan.

James would have liked to have been able to spend time in a number of roles, to allow him to see first-hand what they were like. He was offered this through the BuildForce work placement programme but was fortunate to secure employment and therefore unable to spend the time exploring various disciplines. James manages his own time in his role with Persimmon Homes, organising his diary and responsibilities; conducting H&S site, sales and customer care inspections where he investigates accidents and incidents. He also attends and chairs meetings, delivers training, conducts action plans, reviews and monitoring. A typical day consists of a construction site inspection, followed by a written report with his findings which is then sent to the relevant people. James feels the skills he learnt in the military have given him the confidence to approach different levels of authority in an appropriate manner and advise them on health and safety. Being able to conduct training for everyone and manage his own time is also another key attribute.

When asked what advice he would give to someone leaving the Armed Forces and seeking a new career in construction, he replied:

“Discover what you enjoy, make a plan and dedicate yourself to meeting that criteria. The military has prepared you to become much more than you think.”

The three words he would use to describe a career in the construction industry are: challenging, rewarding and enjoyable. Followed by: confident, reliable and resilient to describe an Ex-Military person to a recruiter from the construction sector.