ONE of Scotland's leading universities has picked up an award for employing armed forces veterans and allow them to return to the education frontline.

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU has been honoured by the Ministry of Defence with a Gold Award for its support of the armed forces community.

GCU staff Peter Yetton, Dr Kareen McAloney and Kevin Forbes all work with the veterans, who are full praise for the university for opening its doors to them.

Kevin Forbes, 51, a serving Senior Nursing Officer for 205 (Scottish) Field Hospital in the British Army, joined GCU two years ago as a Nursing and Community Health lecturer.

“The university is very supportive of my military role and has allowed me to carry out my military duties and feel valued as a reservist,” said Lt Colonel Forbes, who has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as an intensive care nurse and trauma nurse co-ordinator.

“I trained as a nurse, but I come from a military family – my father and three uncles were in the military – and shared their values of service to country. I became a military nurse because I wanted to provide healthcare in a challenging environment, nursing service personnel in extreme situations.

“I find that my duties in the army and here at the university complement each other – in the army we’re used to bringing out the best in young people and spotting their potential, which is the same as teaching undergraduates.

“Military courses and experience contribute to my teaching and my teaching and research contribute to the development of my colleagues in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps.

“I’ve also been helping GCU to recruit service leavers as students, showing them that education is a viable option that can improve their job prospects.

“A lot of people underestimate the skills that individuals leaving the armed forces have to offer – leadership and communication skills as well as self-reliance.”

Jim Castle, the GCU Veterans and Armed Forces Champion, said: “I’m delighted and honoured that the prestigious Gold Award has been bestowed on the university. It has been an absolute pleasure to have led the charge to support this fantastic group of people.

“As the University for the Common Good, our core values of confidence, integrity, responsibility and creativity have significant synergy with those of HM Forces. GCU can offer something of a home from home to those who are transitioning or are still a part of the organisation that keeps us safe.”

Peter Yetton, who leads the Visa Immigration Support and Advice team at the university, is an army reservist and is ex-Royal Navy. “I’m proud that the university is so supportive of the armed forces, veterans and families. My grandparents and great-grandparents fought in both wars, as well as my uncles, great uncles and great aunts. I come from a long line of military people going back to 1780.

“I was proud to serve, but after an accident, I came out of the Royal Navy in 2002, where I’d been clearing sea mines, and trained as a lawyer. It was a struggle to find employment at first, and the transition to civilian life was difficult.”

Peter, 48, worked in immigration and human rights law before joining GCU in 2013.

“When I left the Royal Navy, I went through a difficult time. I had to start from the beginning and sit Highers at the age of 32 before applying to university to do law. I was interested in law after one of my postings was linked to the Good Friday agreement and I saw the positive effects the law could have.

“I did a three-year degree and then a post-graduate to gain my legal diploma and practised as a criminal lawyer in Glasgow for two years before moving into family law, and then immigration and human rights before turning to consultancy. I changed careers after I’d become disillusioned with law, and when an opportunity came up to set up a compliance team at GCU to help grow international student numbers.

“I’ve found that GCU fits really well with the integrity and ethos I encountered in the armed forces, and I find working in this environment effortless.

“When I came out of the Royal Navy, I wish I’d had Jim Castle to help me as he is so supportive of veterans,” he added. “Looking back, it would have been easier for me to transition to engineering, if I’d had the right guidance.

“Leaving the Armed Forces is hard – life is quite simple there, and people rely on each other and share the same goals. You’re also selfless and have this allegiance to Queen and country. It’s hard to find that sense of purpose and to feel valued in civilian life. It’s like a grieving procedure.

“A lot of veterans get in trouble with the law because they’re frustrated and don’t cope well without someone telling them what to do with their skills. You’re used to being respected and having huge responsibilities in the forces, then you go to being nothing in civilian life and people barely trusting you. Now I feel very supported and valued by GCU.”

GCU psychology lecturer, Dr Kareena McAloney was an officer in the RAF, a reservist who trained air cadets in airmanship, navigation and citizenship.

“I’ve found the support network for staff and students from a military background at GCU very helpful. They offer career advice as well as psycho-social support. At their social events you can find a shared identity and realise that you’re not on your own.

“Not all organisations have the core values of the armed forces to the forefront – respect for community and each other and loyalty are ingrained in us – so it can be hard to integrate into civilian life. Employers like GCU, who recognise and uphold these values and support the armed forces really make a difference.”

GCU has signed up to the armed forces covenant, a promise from the nation that those who serve or have served in the military and their families are treated fairly.

They offer ten extra days paid leave for reservists and have supportive HR policies in place for veterans, reserves, Cadet Force Adult Volunteers, spouses and partners of those serving in the armed forces.

Professor Pamela Gillies, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of GCU, said: “We are proud to support veterans’ reintegration into society and to develop their impressive range of transferable skills, in order to progress with further study or employment.

“Veterans make a hugely valuable contribution to our university community and to society as a whole and we look forward to providing future opportunities for our brave former service men and women.”

GCU was among 127 Gold winners who will receive their awards in October.

Johnny Mercer, Minister for Defence People and Veterans, said: “I’m grateful for the positive attitude and flexible policies these organisations have adapted towards the defence community, which is testament to the fantastic contribution our serving personnel, veterans and their families can make to any organisation.”