Craig Cunliffe, Fircroft contractor with Bentley, talks about his transition from the RAF into the automotive industry.
Starting out in the Forces
Having always been passionate about technology and software, joining the RAF straight out of college came naturally. I went through initial training to become a basic aircraft engineer and became an Aircraft Avionics Technician as a result, which meant first-line servicing of military aircrafts. After a further 18 months of technical training on aircraft avionic systems I continued my 17 year career as an Aircraft Avionics Technician.
I was provided with excellent opportunities to travel – I went out to the Gulf in 1998, followed by Oman, America and six years in Scotland. Following this, I relocated to the South of England and spent two years working on the British Army’s helicopters in a trial for the Ministry of Defence, and by 2007 I was working in a defence college as Technical Instructor and Squadron IT Manager.
My Transition from the RAF to the Automotive Industry
After taking voluntary redundancy in 2012, I was given a six month resettlement period where the RAF supported me in returning back into the civilian world. They were extremely helpful, offering additional training courses and help with rewriting my CV. I was advised to place emphasis on certain areas of my experience and knowledge, yet no reference to the automotive industry had been made at this point.
Rob Marlow, a member of the Automotive Recruitment Team at Fircroft, approached me towards the end of my resettlement period; he mentioned the automotive industry and I was interested straightaway. He had my CV and spent time with me cross-comparing it with the specifications of a number of automotive roles. It was a great way of clarifying that my skills in electronic engineering would be transferable to numerous areas within the automotive industry - I hadn’t realised that automotive engineering would be an option available based on my skillset. However, Rob demonstrated my suitability and I came to realise that the automotive sector was a viable and sustainable possibility.
Engineering in the Automotive Industry
Following my application, it wasn’t long before I started working at Bentley - I left the air force in December 2012 and started my first day on the job in the same month. I’ve been working for Bentley for almost two years now and there is still a huge variety to my work on a daily basis. Driving luxury cars is something I had never envisioned doing as part of my career.
My manager is very clear about my progression prospects in his feedback, which encourages me to strive further within the business. With Bentley being an internationally known brand there are countless opportunities for us in the future.
Opportunities for those leaving the Forces
I would encourage those who are considering or currently in the process of leaving the forces to look carefully at their skillset. Don’t be discouraged by job titles; compare the role requirements to your experience in different circumstances. For example, the forces provide a very high level of training in areas such as leadership, which many employers look out for. I originally thought my CV was solely tailored towards aeronautical roles, but with a bit of creative vision a myriad of opportunities opened up.
Fircroft has supported me at every stage throughout my transition from the RAF into the automotive industry, and continue to play a huge part in my role here. A member of the Automotive Recruitment Team at Fircroft contacts me every few months to check how my contract is going, and if I have any questions about payroll they are always prompt and helpful in their responses. I may not have realised my potential in the automotive industry when I first left the forces, but with the help of Fircroft I have come to realise that my options are endless.