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Interview: Ken Carter

Leonie:

All right, great.

Ken:

Good.

Leonie:

Up and running. Can you hear me okay?

Ken:

Yeah, no worries.

Leonie:

Yeah, good. So, what are you up to today Ken? What have I found you doing?

Ken:

Well, I flew back in from site yesterday, so we’re actually in the middle of, what we call our metals leadership team safety meetings. So it’s a bit of a reflection of a month’s performance, as it were. So yeah, you know what these meetings are like, it’s likely to be a slightly drawn out affair.

Leonie:

Yeah. And so do you get the Easter break?

Ken:

Yeah, looking forward to the long weekend, absolutely.

Leonie:

Nice, you got something nice planned?

Ken:

Lots of family and friends social events, so that’ll be nice.

Leonie:

That will be nice.

Ken:

Looking forward to it, yeah.

Leonie:

It’s nice getting together with family isn’t it?

Ken:

We’re very good actually, my extended family over here, my mother-in-law is the matriarch. Every birthday she organizes a family get-together and we celebrate it. And so this, tomorrow, is actually my father-in-law’s and my own, my birthday’s in a couple of weeks, so she’s getting us all together. I say, “God bless”, I don’t know what’s going to happen when she leaves us.

Leonie:

Definitely, my grandma was the matriarch in our family and my happiest memories are getting together for family Christmases at her farm house.

Ken:

Lovely.

Leonie:

Yeah, so special. She passed away a couple of years ago and ever since then we don’t really get together so much as a family, and yeah …

Ken:

It’s true isn’t it? It’s just one person, it takes one person.

Leonie:

Yeah, it does.

Ken:

I’ve been lucky, obviously I’ve grown up in the UK, but we’ve always had that close family connection. But the modern era being the modern era, and it doesn’t seem to be, and I don’t mean to sound disparaging, but it doesn’t seem to be that sort of value set on those things, is it? If you know where I’m coming from?

Leonie:

Yeah, it does seem to have shifted a bit.

Ken:

I think within the heart, the value’s still there, but the way modern society ticks, it almost prevents it from happening. If you see where I’m coming from?

Leonie:

Yeah, I do see where you’re coming from. Life gets busy and fast, and even though we all still want that, we feel that we don’t have time for it. Well, Ken have a great weekend.

Ken:

Thank you.

Leonie:

And I’ll get to my point so that I’m not taking up too much of your time. So first of all, thank you so much for that really lovely comment that you made.

Ken:

Not at all.

Leonie:

We really appreciate it, and thank you for allowing me to interview you. So I guess if you could start by telling me just a little bit about your background and where you were at before you contacted Churchill Education?

Ken:

Yeah sure. I was, at the time, in the Australian military, I’d been in the military in total for 30 years, most of it in the British military and I came across and transferred to the Australian, and I had every intention of continuing my service. Like so many long serving service people, I had gathered a great deal of experience in many different jobs but never actually taken the time to go away and consolidate that experience and put it into anything tangible, in terms of a qualification, et cetera. And it really came to fore when, out of the blue, I was diagnosed with type one diabetes, late onset type one diabetes.

Leonie:

Wow.

Ken:

Yeah, always led a very healthy life, my background was commando forces and physical training, but sadly it meant that I had to be medically discharged after 30 years. And I suddenly thought, crikey, been a bit of a fall, not really done anything about professionally developing myself other than doing a Sports Science degree, which is not particularly tangible in terms of the market I’m in now. So as I went around looking at what I can do, I came across yourselves on the internet, made contact-

Leonie:

How did you find us? Was it just a Google search, or did somebody tell you about us?

Ken:

No, I did a Google search, yeah, absolutely. And I did quite a bit of reading and it literally was just an email saying, “This is the situation I am in, this is the experience I’ve had, to all intents and purposes. Can you help me?” And I think, is it John, the CEO? I forget now …

Leonie:

John’s the Skills Assessor, who you would’ve spoken to.

Ken:

Yeah. He got hold of me and we had a chat, he said, “Send me through your CV”, initially. I sent him through my CV, and he said, “This is an awful lot of experience here, can you back this up with tangible evidence in terms of reports, minutes, et cetera.” I said, “Yeah, I can.” I said, “I’ve still got all these things, albeit most of it British army.” And he said, “That’s fine.” Sent it in, he was really good in terms of coaching me through it, where I needed to perhaps provide a little bit of further evidence, put the portfolio together. And I was really surprised, because obviously he asked me what sort of field I was half interested in going into, and that is where I am now, is the health and safety side of things. And lo and behold, to cut a long story short, came back with, “We’re able to offer you an advanced diploma in Occupational Health and Safety, and a diploma in Security Risk Management.”

Leonie:

Perfect.

Ken:

And, forgive me, shortly afterwards I attended two interviews and I was offered both jobs.

Leonie:

Wow.

Ken:

On the strength of, okay, obviously I interviewed well but, CV, and those qualifications. And it’s been eight years now, but I haven’t really done anything to further up those skills. But I’m now in a good management position in the [occ 00:07:34] health and safety arena and I get called in, of course, on matters pertaining to risk within the business. So, I do honestly believe without the help in terms of turning my experience into tangible evidence, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Leonie:

Wow, that’s fantastic.

Ken:

And, it’s not just about me, it’s obviously my family and our security as well. So it’s great-

Leonie:

So how were you feeling, what feelings did you go through when you had that diagnosis and you could no longer continue your role?

Ken:

Well, of course, that transition from the military to, forgive me for saying, civilian street, it’s a very, whilst you’re generally a confident person, I had a good position in the military, et cetera, it’s moving into the unknown. So there is quite a lot of trepidation there, all of a sudden, everything is on your lap. You’re not provided housing like you are in the military, you don’t just move from position to position and jobs are guaranteed, you have to, obviously, prove yourself. And that was a period of, I would say significant stress for me, it was the fear of the unknown.

Ken:

And a lot of my friends outside the military saying, Ken, don’t worry about it, we’ve had six or seven jobs. I said, “Well, I’ve had the one, to all intents and purposes, and I’m making that big transition, which I am not familiar with. Everything in my life is, if I’m not feeling well, I go to the military doctor, now I have to book an appointment and …” as I said, it’s a significant step, whilst I love the military, you’ve got a big umbrella over your head, protected. Whereas outside of the military you don’t, and from employment, I was absolutely amazed that when I secured my first job outside the military, I had to go through a probation period. What’s a probation period, never been gone through one before? So there’s a lot of unknown there that you’re simply not aware of it in the military, and that raises quite a few insecurities.

Leonie:

It’s almost like stepping into a whole new world, isn’t it?

Ken:

Well, it is, exactly. And I say this to any service person leaving the military, I always say to them, as I said, “Well, I’ll give you the benefit of my experience and where I fell down in terms of not preparing myself properly.” And I always say to them, as I said, “There’s not actually as much to fear about as you first think, but you’ve got to prepare yourself to be competitive when you come out in the military.” Because the worst thing that’ll happen in the military, if you don’t perform, is you don’t get promoted. Whereas outside the military, if you don’t perform, you could lose your job.

Leonie:

Yeah, exactly.

Ken:

There’s a big difference. Or, if you don’t have the tangible evidence, you don’t get hired. Sorry if I’m a bit disjointed there.

Leonie:

No, not at all. Is there a stigma in terms of leaving the military, or is it expected that it’ll happen at some stage?

Ken:

I think you all have it, every serviceman has it in their mind that they will eventually leave one day. Stigma? I think to be honest with you, the stigma is generated quite often within the military. And I don’t want to this to sound disparaging-

Leonie:

That’s what I mean, I wondered is there a bit of, do you get a little bit of a hard time … Do people that choose to leave the military get a bit of a hard time from other people within the military?

Ken:

It’s a bit of a, dare I say, subversive message, and that is, you’ll never get a job as good as you’ve got it in the military, you’ll never be viewed as somebody with significant value. Whereas, dare I say, now I’ve obviously made that transition, from my perspective actually many of the big companies out there value the experience that military personnel bring. As in the discipline, the ability to work hard, the flexibility that, it comes natural to them. So the message, I always say this to, again, service friends that are leaving. Don’t necessarily believe the message that comes from within the military, you are valued and actually within a lot of big companies, they are intelligent enough to know that depending on the rank you were, et cetera, when you leave the military, there’s an awful lot of valuable experience that comes with that sort of experience.

Leonie:

Definitely.

Ken:

They can equate quite well, effectively, rank to management position if you understand where I’m coming from? And I’ve drawn on my military experience to help me a lot in what I do, practical solutions and problem solving, et cetera.

Leonie:

Great. So how did you know about RPL?

Ken:

I’ll be honest, I was completely ignorant to it until I came to the Australian army. And the first thing I learned about it was, I was approached by the Education Department in the military, and they said, “Have you got a certificate for [in-training 00:14:22] and assessing?” I said, “No I haven’t.” The positions I’ve held in the past have always, part and parcel of the position is, you deliver training and presentations, et cetera. And they went, “No, we like our NCOs and officers to have a cert for in-training.” And that’s when I first got into, I needed to put a portfolio together, produce evidence, and my education officer put me through that. I didn’t realize at the time how valuable that cert for in-training and assessing would be. So that was my first experience.

Ken:

And then as I was going through the medical discharge process, thankfully as a result of that we’re entitled to some funding to help us transition. And somebody said, “Ken, have a look into this.” And they just gave me the background details about RPL, and that’s all I put into my search engine when I was in that process was, recognition of prior learning, and bang and obviously … and Churchill were quite high up there. And I just, forgive me, obviously being British originally, Churchill resonated with me, I went, “This is interesting.” Opened this up, and yeah, look, it fitted the bill. Hence why then I dropped the email and the correspondence went on from there.

Leonie:

So, in addition to the Churchill connection for your background, what else was it about the website that made you want to reach out to Churchill over any of the other RPL providers?

Ken:

I suppose what it was, and I should’ve said this, was it specifically mentioned with, aiding leaving servicemen, assisting leaving servicemen. And that was really important to me because I thought, well, you people will recognize much of the experience we tend to gain in our time in the military. Obviously, you’ve had that experience in terms of helping servicemen settle into, or move through the transition from service to civilian life. And that was really important to me and I said, “Well, I’m talking to people who know, as opposed to people that would just see me as, forgive me for saying, a dollar sign.” And I honestly felt I got that through the whole process, the good liaison, the good communication and correspondence, it was most helpful. No question was ever too difficult.

Leonie:

So you really did feel that you were valued and that John cared about helping you with your needs rather than just making money?

Ken:

Absolutely. And to be honest, not only did I feel valued, the whole process really increased my self efficacy, my confidence, that actually, I’ve got something here that companies would be interested in.

Leonie:

How great.

Ken:

And that was the message that kept coming back was saying, let’s capture this, let’s capture your experience because it is valuable. And I don’t mean that to sound arrogant, I was very pleasantly surprised, because in the military you do take what you do for granted. So, when I was looking at my diploma in security and risk management, he said, “Well, think about it, you’ve been on military operations, you’ve set up base camps, all this is security and risk based.” So many soldiers do, they just get on with it, it’s what we do. And occ health and safety, I made it very clear, I said, “Whilst I never actually held an occ health and safety position, it was very much implied in everything I did in terms of planning process, et cetera, risk assessment.” But again, you just thought, this is what we do.

Leonie:

Yeah, it’s easy to take experience for granted when it’s not formally recognized, isn’t it?

Ken:

Exactly right.

Leonie:

So it sounds to me like another thing that really helped you was that John was able to understand the military well enough to know what questions to ask you?

Ken:

Very valuable, a very good point, absolutely. And that links into, what I meant was, no question was too difficult, he, dare I say, obviously had similar questions raised before, and that was really helpful. I didn’t feel, actually, that I had to do a great deal of work in terms of putting my portfolio together, John really helped me with that.

Leonie:

Well, that is great isn’t it? Because can’t administrative processes be laborious sometimes, when you have to try and find your way through?

Ken:

The only thing I had to do, over and above, dare I say, forgive me, printing of evidence, was in a couple of occasions, just put a statement together to elaborate more on the evidence. And to be honest, I just got my Commanding Officer to sign off as a validation to that [inaudible 00:20:47].

Leonie:

Great.

Ken:

So, forgive me for saying, I don’t mean this the wrong way, it was probably one of the easiest advanced diplomas I’ve ever got.

Leonie:

That is great. So how long did it take you from initially sending that email to receiving your qualifications?

Ken:

Probably only a couple of months to be truthful. And that might sound quite a long time, but not at all. It wasn’t as though that was constant correspondence always for a couple of months, it might have been a few days between each correspondence. But yeah, much quicker than I thought.

Leonie:

That’s great. And then how long between getting your qualifications and having those interviews?

Ken:

Well, as soon as the certificates actually arrived, straight onto my CV, and I then immediately just attached that CV to about six job applications. And within a fortnight I was called forward for interview. And in fact, the job I got in the end, or I took, was great because the feedback I got from the interviewing manager, he’s now a personal friend, was, you weren’t the guy we were looking at, until we received your CV and et cetera. And I don’t want to sound, forgive me, sycophantic, but service people, bless their hearts, can be a little bit ignorant, in the nicest possible way, and they need that help.

Leonie:

Yeah, right. So do you think people in the services are aware of RPL?

Ken:

Only from my own experience, but not as aware as perhaps they should be. As I said, I was educated, I had, dare I say without being arrogant, a Sports Science degree, but that had no relevance to the field I was going into. And many, particularly senior service people, take their position for granted. They think, well, that in itself will get me a job. No, not necessarily. You need to understand you’re going out into an environment where it’s a very competitive environment, and you have to demonstrate something or show something that is instantaneously tangible to … Because the first people that see your CV are recruiting people and they’re not necessarily going to have the understanding that, dare I say, certain positions in the military come with a lot of experience. It’s only when you get filtered out that the more senior company people get to look at things and make the decisions who they’re going to take through to interview. So you certainly need something tangible to get through that first, initial process.

Leonie:

Definitely. So you went through the RPL process, you received your qualifications, you had the interviews, you were offered two, and then … so now you’ve embarked on a whole new career, which was initially, the catalyst was your diagnosis of diabetes. So it wasn’t that you proactively chose to leave the military, but now that you have left and you’re in a whole new career, how are you enjoying it as compared to what you were doing beforehand?

Ken:

Look, I’ve got to be honest, I’m working for a company now, I’ve been with them six months, loving it. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my previous company. Never looked back. I have to be honest, I’d gotten that mindset anyway, after 30 years I was probably going to do a couple more years and I was going to start that transition process, but it was suddenly cut short, thrown into it. But now there are things that do frustrate me slightly. Dare I say, forgive me, outside the military, in some cases it doesn’t seem to be that inbred discipline, and if you state a time, you’re going to be there at that time, people are a little bit more flexible in their nature.

Ken:

But, funnily enough, what it has bought me is a much better quality of life. And people go, “Oh”, I have more time for my family, after work hours and weekends are mine. As I said, so it’s different, but people say, “The military is very structured”, et cetera. Well, I said, “So is modern industry.” I said, “Actually you could put many organizations side by side with the military and, if you like, there’s a rank structure.” I said, “So the structure’s pretty much the same.” Discipline, in terms of, getting on and getting the job done, et cetera, that’s actually not a great deal different. So when you come out and you start recognizing these things, the big difference is, you’re not in a uniform. As I said, I’ve brought much of my military experience into what I’m doing now. So that initial apprehension, I’ll be honest, after only a few months really waned and went out the window because I recognized that, actually, the things that are valuable in the military are pretty much valuable, or valued, outside as well.

Leonie:

Yeah, definitely. So, how could we let more military personnel know about the potential benefits of RPL?

Ken:

The first thing I always to say, that’s just something that needs to be pushed through the military education systems. I don’t know if you already do that, forgive me? I know I’ve seen some of your advertising material in some of the resettlement centers, but forgive me, I think sometimes, once the service person’s got to the resettlement phase, be it they’re leaving under their own volition or otherwise, it’s almost a little too late. I would certainly say to any service person, start your application to things now, start preparing yourself for transition almost from day one.

Leonie:

So how could we give that information to those still in the military at an earlier phase?

Ken:

I’m just trying to think, forgive me. Like I said, through, every large Australian base has got an education center. What else, I’m trying to think …

Leonie:

Are they open to outside service providers, or are they a bit more …

Ken:

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely they are, yeah. So, perhaps in Australia here they tend to set up bases at brigade level, but certainly going in and advertising your services. I’m trying to think now, probably through the likes of the brigade chief-of-staff who sits next to the brigade commander, and then they can work that information out. You almost want your advertising material or pamphlets in every unit administration office. Because every soldier passes through the administration office at some point. Medical centers, they sound daft, I know. Or for that matter, gymnasiums as well, every serviceman goes through a gymnasium. So the high traffic areas, if you can.

Leonie:

Yeah. Are the gymnasiums actual internal military gymnasiums? Or are they just …

Ken:

Yes they are.

Leonie:

Okay.

Ken:

And as I say they are sports centers, to all intents and purposes, they’re not just a little hall, these are sports centers. So that’s why I say every serviceman will come through them. And they are often linked to the internal cafes and bars as well. So these are high traffic areas.

Leonie:

Yeah, that really makes a lot of sense. Thank you so much Ken. So I’ll get towards wrapping this up so that you can get back to your day, and finish up so that you can enjoy an extended Easter break. So I guess if you wanted to end just by saying, in one or two sentences, to other potential, or to other military people who may be looking at getting out, what would you say about the benefit of RPL?

Ken:

It’s, how can I say this? It really highlights the value that you have through your experience within the military, and that’s something none of us are truly aware of. And the qualifications that you guys map across, are not, forgive me for saying, willy-nilly qualifications. They’re qualifications of value that are tangible and valuable to organizations outside of the military. You assist us in really equipping us well, based on the experience we have.

Leonie:

And so what would you say in closing about the particular service that you received from Churchill, as just one of many providers that someone could choose from?

Ken:

Easy, an easy experience. At times I thought I might’ve been asking, for want of a better phrase, a [bone 00:33:32] question, but I never felt as though that question was bone. I always, spoken to with absolutely respect, patience, and guided through the whole process.

Leonie:

Great.

Ken:

And I’ll just finish off, forgive me, I’ve not had much correspondence since, to be honest with you, but I truly valued what you guys did for me, and my heartfelt thanks to you. Because as I said, it goes beyond me, it’s my family, and we’ve benefited from your services.

Leonie:

Well that’s great to hear, Ken. So I’ve just got a little side question that your comment has put in my head. Would you like it if we had have kept in touch with you, via the odd email? Or …

Ken:

I don’t mind at all.

Leonie:

Yeah, right. Because another part of my role, and I’ve just recently started at Churchill, so I’m just looking at how we can improve things, is to be more in touch with both past clients and with anyone who might’ve contacted us, but for any reason didn’t. Just to stay in touch with some information and things. So it’s good to know what actually is needed and how we can add value and provide solutions. Great. Well, Ken … sorry.

Ken:

No, as I say, I’m more than happy that you drop me the occasional email, or whatever. Yeah, I’ll assist where I can.

Leonie:

Yeah, fantastic. Ken, do you have a photograph of you that you would be willing to let me use with this case study that I’ll write up about you?

Ken:

I might have to search for a few. Absolutely, yeah.

Leonie:

That would be wonderful. Just a professional headshot would be fantastic. Or even, actually, maybe if you’ve got one of you in action as well, that’d be great. But just whatever you feel comfortable with would be wonderful. So whenever you have the time, if you can send it through to that same email address that I contacted you on that would be brilliant.

Ken:

No worries at all, too easy.

Leonie:

Okay. Thank you so much, Ken, I really appreciate your time.

Ken:

And you, take care won’t you. Have a great long weekend, hopefully, yourself.

Leonie:

Thanks Ken, have some great family time.

Ken:

Thank you, bye for now.

Leonie:

Okay, bye.

Ken:

Bye bye.

 

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