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Interview: Derek Keir

Churchill:

So Derek what I would love is if you can give me a bit of, just a bit of history of you and your career and where you started and where you’re at now, and what brought you to the point of wanting to go through the process of RPL.

Derek:

Alright, so basically I left school at year 10 with no HSC and I joined the military [inaudible 00:00:54] apprenticeship as a mechanic, aviation mechanic. I went through and did 8 years. I then discharged from the military for a job that never eventuated so I rejoined. So I was actually positioned over in Oman but never [inaudible 00:01:13]. So I rejoined the military after spending about 12 months in civilian aviation, so I still kept my hand in the aircraft world. And then after rejoining I then went on to do a total of 27 years in total with the Royal Australian Force. So when I went to discharge, they offer the resettlement training and I’d spoken to a lot of guys and they said yeah it doesn’t really amount to much.

Churchill:

What was your rank on exit, Derek?

Derek:

I was actually on promotion to Flight Sergeant, but I was substantial Sergeant. I had done all my courses, so I’d done all my communication courses and those sorts of things for the Flight Sergeant rank. They just wouldn’t allow me to take up that role. They said the position’s gonna be about three years and I thought well I’ve gotta move ahead, I can’t stay stationary so I got out of the Air Force and attempted to find a job.

I’d been in an out of a few jobs so I became a service manager at a agricultural place in Wagga Wagga and that went for the three months and I won’t go into the details as to why I left but it was a very toxic workplace. So I went, I don’t need to be part of this so I tried to move on. When I moved on from there it was very very hard to get any positions because I had no qualifications as such, that were recognised in the civilian industry. So I then started my own business, just a handyman business. And again, coz you know, the qualifications a lot of people were asking for, certain qualifications I didn’t have them although I had the experience in many facets.

That’s when I was looking around and only by chance, and I thought this doesn’t seem right, I actually got Churchill Education popped on my Facebook account. Being ex military, so probably might have, with my searching and those sorts of things that had packed into something along those lines. And I went, “This is too good to be true” because this was what I was looking for and I’d been searching for about 12 months looking for a company that could give me some RPL for what I had completed in the military. And I thought, nah, this can’t be true, so I let it ride for probably another three months, and then I saw it pop up on the internet through some of the searches that I was doing, and then again I saw it pop up on Facebook and I went look, I’ve got nothing to lose even if I make this phone call.

Churchill:

How long ago was that, Derek? That you went through this process?

Derek:

I probably started, so I actually went through ­­­the RPL process almost 12 months ago, probably just shy, it’s probably 9 months ago I started the process.

Churchill:

So is that 12 months when you were seeing the, you know, this place showing up on Facebook and Google?

Derek:

Yeah, it was probably about 12 months or 15 months ago that I saw those popping through on my Facebook.

Churchill:

Okay great.

Derek:

I just went, look I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain so I contacted and spoke with Kelly and she was just phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal.

Churchill:

She’s wonderful isn’t she?

Derek:

I just thought she’s bursting at the seams here, so I packaged together my 96 pages of qualifications and experience and everything that I had and sent off to her to have the initial lookup and what that looks like. And then within probably three working days I reckon, I’ve had an email back from Kelly saying look this is what we can do, this is the process and this is the cost of how much it will, and obviously if you do one it’s this cost if you do it’s this cost, if you do more it’s … Sort of a package deal and we went, “look this is fantastic”. So I spoke with my wife and said “you know what, let’s make this happen”. So I ended up with the four diplomas through Churchill Education being Security and Risk Management, Diploma in Government, Diploma in Leadership Management, Diploma in O.H. & S.

Churchill:

Wow, what a fantastic result.

Derek:

Yeah and then once I received those, during that process I actually managed to get employment with Department of Industry in New South Wales so I’ve actually been a mentor and auditing and governance compliance sort of stuff for trainees and apprentices across our region here in New South Wales. So I was looking after about 5800 apprentices and trainees at that point in time and they said to me because you’re getting these qualifications that’s why we’re employing you. [crosstalk 00:06:32] don’t have them yet and the biggest, the big one was the Diploma in Government and the Diploma in Management, Leadership Management so I went yeah, that’s fantastic so then I started applying a lot more. Over the period of the last five years I’ve applied for probably close to 70 jobs and I’ve had a almost one to one ratio since I have received my qualifications from Churchill.

Churchill:

Wow really? [crosstalk 00:07:09] So one to one success since getting your civilian qualifications and then the five years before the 70 jobs, out of those 70 how many were you successful with?

Derek:

None.

Churchill:

Wow, that’s a massive difference isn’t it?

Derek:

Huge, absolutely huge. I just went, I just couldn’t, I was beside myself and then I literally have just landed my dream job, that I start Monday and that is again thanks to those qualifications that I’ve received through Churchill Education to put me into that sphere. So I’m using three of the diplomas for this position that I’ve picked up plus my experience in the aviation world, which together, coupled together has got me across the line.

I actually was talking to a very old work colleague and they said, “oh I think there is a job coming up, you might wanna apply for this company”, so I put my name in the hat and within three days I had an interview. And then within seven days following that interview they had accepted me and said we want you on board and here’s a permanent job. So this will be the first permanent job that I’ve actually had since early discharge from the military in October 2014.

Churchill:

Wow! And so what’s the role Derek?

Derek:

So the role is, I would be a, they call it a member of the Consulting Team but a level two. So I’m going in consulting analysis for aviation specific types of work and I’ll have approximately three or four employees that work under my level that I’ll be responsible for. They’re calling it a consultant level two, with the relevant technical skills that I’ve got but having all those other; the Management, the Risk Management and those qualifications that I’ve got, has put me into this position. Coz I’ve gotta liaise with military clients as well as professional members of the community within the aerospace domain.

So it’s just fantastic, I actually qualify for level four Consultant with the qualifications I’ve got and that was something that we discussed and they said look we need you to come on board, do your minimum time and then we can re look and I might jump to even three or four within the next 12 months, without having to do any further personal development because of what I already currently hold.

Churchill:

How fantastic! Is this a government agency?

Derek:

No it’s [crosstalk 00:10:07]

Churchill:

Oh! It’s private?

Derek:

It’s private agency.

Churchill:

So that’s their internal system of classifying their roles and levels is it? Their level two, level three or …

Derek:

Yes, correct. It goes from one to six and then you move up into manager, manager’s position.

Churchill:

Okay. Alright. So that’s not an industry specific thing, it’s just something unique to the company that you’re working for.

Derek:

Yeah, correct. So the company is Jacobs Australia and they’re, actually Jacobs started in America and they’ve been in Australia for about 20-26 years and they’re actually in 50 different countries across the world. And they don’t normally offer permanent positions unless you have a lot to offer the company and because of the skills that I’ve got and those qualifications that I was able to [inaudible 00:11:01] through Churchill Education that’s why they went: “We need somebody like you that’s got a broad range and very diverse and adaptable to all different scenarios”. So that’s why they offered me a permanent job.

Churchill:

Wow, it sounds like it’s just the job that was made for you doesn’t it Derek?

Derek:

Absolutely.

Churchill:

Appreciating all of your military experience and skills but then also the civilian qualifications, so it’s not just one or the other it’s everything, correct?

Derek:

Yes, correct.

Churchill:

Oh good, and so you don’t have to be specific but it is a lucrative position for you as well?

Derek:

Yes it is. It’s over a hundred thousand.

Churchill:

That’s fantastic! Congratulations. So is that a substantial increase on what, on the maximum that you were earning when you were in defence?

Derek:

Ah, yes it is.

Churchill:

Just rewinding back to before this job, how did it make you feel when you got that email back from Kelly saying that you were eligible for all those qualifications?

Derek:

I was actually, dumbfounded is probably not the right word, but I was gobsmacked with the qualifications I was able to achieve. I knew I could get some just due to my experience and skill set and what I had done but I just didn’t know it to that length that I would end up with four. So yeah it was just, I was sort of like beside myself going okay so what can I do with these and that’s when I started pursuing positions that matched those qualifications as well.

Churchill:

That must have opened up a world of opportunities for you once you knew that you had those in the bag?

Derek:

Absolutely, definitely. And I actually started applying before I had received them so after I’d put in the application for the RPL I then started applying. I had been applying for those positions previously, and since then I’ve spoken to three companies that I applied for and I said high I see you’re still advertising, you haven’t got this manager or you haven’t got that manager. And I said oh by the way are you interested in this? Ah yeah, but because of your qualifications, and I said what the five diplomas I’ve got now and they say oh hang on, sorry, you what?

Churchill:

Obviously it was a step that employers were needing, tick the box and show them a piece of paper, but do you feel like it also, did it change your self esteem and your confidence in your own abilities as well do you think? Between just you and yourself?

Derek:

Absolutely 100%. So because I was getting those knock backs from the positions that I had applied for, so what makes me so different from this person and, once I actually then had that piece of paper to backup that yes I know what I’m talking about and could show them that qualification, the boost of self confidence was just immense. Going, well, here is my Diploma in Management and Leadership Management, they just go oh wow this is awesome. So you already feel on cloud nine because of that. Having that behind you, to go oh yeah by the way here is my diploma, was just phenomenal.

Churchill:

That must have been a great feeling to go into an interview with this as well?

Derek:

Yes, definitely. To have that knowing that you’ve got that there, and you’re talking and then they turn around and say so what have you got to back this up and you pull it out, there it is and they sort of go, oh okay well this guy’s on board. So yeah, fantastic.

Churchill:

Oh, that’s great Derek and how did you feel when you got this, when you got the news that you’ve been accepted for this new job that you’re about to start, that you, your dream job?

Derek:

Yeah I’ve probably, I’m still buzzing. It’s been, like I said it’s been four weeks of just, I had to sort of, we’re in the part from getting the offer, signing it, and trying to pack up a house and put it on the market and sell. All those sorts of things and making sure my daughter is where she needs to be. It’s just been a big buzz and it’s all happening this weekend so, I’m still buzzing from it and I think I’ll be buzzing for many months to come because it’s a position that I’ve been chasing for a lot of years.

Churchill:

How fantastic Derek, I’m so happy for you. How great that Churchill got to have a little, play a little part in you being where you are now, that’s still inspiring.

Derek:

I would probably go with, for me Churchill’s probably played at least a 30% part in where I am today but from an outsider looking in, I believe that Churchill Education’s actually provided probably 80% of the perception that people were seeing because of those qualifications. Thanks to Churchill Education now they got yep, no worries and without those I was just getting nowhere. I know what I’ve got, I’ve now got that self confidence because of those qualifications that I was able to achieve through Churchill Education so having the two together is fantastic like I’ve said.

From my point of view I think 30% of me getting this job was thanks to Churchill Education but from the other side of the fence, if I was sitting there, interviewing, I believe it would be 80% because of that qualification to show.

Churchill:

It absolutely makes sense. This is a thing, it’s my job to talk to clients and hear their stories. What I notice is that getting qualifications it’s just the way the employment market runs and that’s what employers want to see, so there’s that and so that obviously opens doors. But then the other great thing that I hear in, when I’m speaking to people is the shift that it makes with how people feel about themselves and I really like that part of it and you probably know that Churchill was started after Randall, the co-founder, developed PTSD, had to leave the police after all those years and RPL was a bit of a process of regaining identity for him as well. I just think it’s really important that, no matter what industry you’re in or where you’re at with life, just to have self belief is really important.

Derek:

Absolutely.

Churchill:

I like that element that RPL plays in that for people, particularly with personnel moving out of military, after a lot of years you’re really high up in that world but it’s a world that the civilian world doesn’t understand and therefore can’t give you the value that you need to be given for what your skills and abilities are. It’s a good connector.

Derek:

Absolutely. I’ve been telling people since I got my qualifications, I’ve been telling all my friends and ex military people that I know to go, hey you need to contact these people and have a chat to them. Definitely, it’s a life saver. It’s open doors left, right and centre for me.

I think I find like what you’re saying there Leonie, I find a lot of guys and girls when they depart from military they have this ah, so where do I start, where do I go, what do I do, and it’s very; where do we start and they’ve very nervous, it’s like they’ve gone back to the bottom and gotta start again. But I am able to now talk to them and say hey, you know you’ve got these transferable skills and if you can get those transferable skills recognised it opens doors everywhere.

And I’m actually trying to push a very close friend of mine, she was discharged from the Air Force medically but she’s a very bright, smart young lady and I’m trying to get her to make contact with you guys so that could help her along coz I think it would help her self confidence and self esteem immensely to have those qualifications behind her as well.

Churchill:

Definitely Derek, that’s great. What was the process like for you of getting your RPL? Was it difficult or time consuming? Talk to me a little bit about that experience that you had.

Derek:

It was almost seamless, a seamless process to go through with the RPL process where it was very succinct. They asked exactly what was required. I was able to supply as much information as I could that met those criteria and I don’t believe I was asked for any additional information. Once I submitted it, it was very easy. The whole process Kelly was there to talk to us, spoke to her. The team there was very good at communication [inaudible 00:22:40] very easy and simple, almost simple to apply. I couldn’t believe it, it was so surreal how easy it was.

Churchill:

So all you have to do is 27 years of learning and then finally you’re qualified?

Derek:

Yeah, that’s right

Churchill:

Thanks Derek. So just to finish off what is your, I know that you’ve spoken a little bit about it but what is your advice for other personnel who are transitioning out of defence?

Derek:

My advice would be to seek RPL for everything they’ve done because there is so much more that meets the eye to their qualifications from defence coming out into civilian industry and they’ve got to seek that RPL process. I’d recommend going to Churchill Education because of what they’ve done for me.

Churchill:

Well that’s great Derek, wow. What a great story, you’ve got exciting times ahead of you, don’t you?

Derek:

Definitely.

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