A young woman has hailed the lifeline support of a military charity that has helped her forge a new career hundreds of miles from home.
Jen Crews, whose partner is a Royal Marine with 45 Commando, moved 500 miles from the south east of England to begin a new life in Arbroath at the start of the pandemic.
The relocation meant she had to leave her existing job and seek out a new role in the local area.
Unfortunately, the pandemic’s impact on the jobs market and a lack of a nearby support networks meant she struggled to find work.
It left the 24-year-old contemplating returning to her hometown as the couple’s financial situation became increasingly untenable.
Jen is now working as a procurement officer with NHS Tayside, based at Ninewells in Dundee, after being helped by forces employment charity RFEA.
A funding boost from the Scottish Government’s Women Returners Programme has allowed RFEA to bolster its efforts to meet increased demand for its services.
It has seen the charity provide employability support to some of those hardest hit by the pandemic.
Ex-servicewomen, as well as as partners and spouses of military personnel across Scotland, have been helped into new employment.
After I took the call to confirm I had been offered the job, I burst into tears with relief, knowing that the financial and emotional pressure I had been under would now be over.”
Jen said: “I had been applying for jobs but without much luck, when someone recommended RFEA.
“My adviser made me realise how much I had been underselling myself.
“She showed me not only how to improve my CV and applications by reflecting more of my achievements, but also how to demonstrate to employers the positives that come with being a military partner, such as my resilience and adaptability, that make for great skills in the workplace.
“It was a difficult time and we were probably talking about weeks, maybe days, before I had to make a decision whether to stay here in Angus or return home to Portsmouth.
“It was the first time I had moved away from home and the first time myself and my partner had moved in together so it was a real change in our lives.
“After I took the call to confirm I had been offered the job, I burst into tears with relief, knowing that the financial and emotional pressure I had been under would now be over.
“I was offered the job just before Christmas and it meant we really had something to celebrate.
“That call flipped things completely on their head and made such a difference.”
Jen said: “I have such immense gratitude for my adviser.
“Without her, I would not have found this job and I probably wouldn’t even still be living here.
“Instead, I now have a sense of belonging from doing such a rewarding job, in an organisation where I know I am making a difference.”
Jen has already received a work promotion, and says she is loving Angus life.
“I really want to feel part of the community and have been able to get involved with the RNLI station at Montrose,” she said.
Claire Sally, one of RFEA’s regional employment advisers for Scotland, said: “Covid-19 has had a huge impact on employment in Scotland.
“Sadly, many ex-servicewomen and military partners or spouses have been disproportionately affected.
“The good news is that we are actively working with a range of organisations across industries such as financial, technology and healthcare who all have vacancies to fill and recognise the value of employing people with experience of a military life.
“Our specialist advisers, with bases across Scotland, are also on hand to provide all the support our clients need to help them find a meaningful and fulfilling role.”
RFEA chief executive Alistair Halliday said: “As a result of our work, RFEA brings about life-changing transformations for thousands of veterans and their families every year.
“We are incredibly grateful to the Scottish Government’s Women Returners Programme fund for their support, which has enabled us to continue to give help to those who need it during this challenging time.”