Armed Forces Week 2022

National Highways recognises Armed Forces Week 2022


17 Jun 2022

In 2020, we re-signed the Armed Forces Covenant to show our commitment to supporting those who have left the forces and their families. Since then, we've been recognised for our work by being awarded the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme Gold award.

We continuously offer support to all of our people who are balancing their time between a civilian life and a military career. Special paid leave is provided so our reservists can do their annual training and additional activities.

Armed Forces Day flag

To recognise Armed Forces Week, some of our staff have given us their stories - find out more below:

Kerry Farrell - West Midlands Network Operations Manager, former Royal Navy Officer

I served as a regular in the Royal Navy for 10 years, joining in 2009 as an Able Seamen Hydrographer and Meteorologist. I spent time at the Naval air stations in Yeovilton and Culdrose as a weather forecaster, as well as numerous deployments at sea on destroyers and mine hunters in the Middle East. In 2013 I achieved my commission, passing out of Britannia Royal Naval College as a Warfare Officer, subsequently gaining my ticket for driving warships and promoting to lieutenant.

My most interesting deployment was a global trip, sailing through the Panama Canal out to Hawaii, where I was fortunate to be involved in a Remembrance ceremony at the USS Arizona wreckage for those lost at Pearl Harbour. My last deployment was on survey ship HMS Scott in the Atlantic mapping the sea floor.

Since joining National Highways in January 2020 I’ve been able to transfer my operational and crisis management skills across to my role as an Operations Manager in the West Midlands Regional Operations Centre, having dealt with fires and floods at sea and more recently taken the position of Network Operations Manager.

National Highways has been extremely supportive with many ex-forces people working in the West Midlands. I’ve recently re-joined the Navy cycling team as a veteran, so spend a lot of my free time training for road cycling.

I joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in September 1983 as a Combat Medical Technician (CMT) serving for 23 years and 4 months. I served all over the world. I left as a Staff Sergeant SQMS at the end of 2006. As a CMT I was an equivalent to a paramedic.

The most challenging portions of my service came as a result of the Gulf War in late 1990/91. I also served in Rwanda - this was a very different but no less challenging experience dealing with genocide and real poverty and malnutrition. I lost both my parents while serving - my mum while in Germany and my dad while on operations in Northern Ireland. I also only just made it home for the birth of my daughter; I arrived home from Iraq two days before she was born. Serving in the armed forces is not all fun.

I joined Highways Agency in April 2007 as a control room operator. I feel incredibly lucky to have found a role that suited me. I left a uniformed operational environment and found a role in a uniformed operational environment, so a complete change of career for me!

I became a team manager in the control room, and had to draw on my combat medic experiences much more than I would have believed, my team having been directly involved in a large number of fatal incidents on the strategic road network in the space of one shift pattern (six days), relatively unheard of at the time. After seven years I realised that I needed a new challenge and joined major projects in May 2014 as a project manager looking after a scheme in the Regional Investment Programme North.

I served in the Royal Navy from 1986 -2018 as a member of the Fleet Air Arm. I completed a successful career finishing at the rank of lieutenant, initially starting out as an aircraft mechanic, completed training as a technician, reached WO2 and then commissioned into an air operations support branch.

In my final role I was the operations officer for a unit providing specialist support personnel to ships and aviation units around the world – an armed forces version of a temping agency! While serving, key skills I gained were: engineering management, quality assurance, error management and investigation, communications, mentoring, conflict resolution, leadership and management.

I joined National Highways in 2018 and initially worked in the Asset Delivery National Team working on changing the maintenance contracts for operational technology to align with the new Asset Delivery contract model. After a successful three years with this team and completing the contract change for all asset delivery regions I applied and was successfully promoted into Major Projects as a senior project manager.

I'm now the lead project manager on the A52 junctions project to upgrade 8 junctions on the strategic link in Nottinghamshire. Support organisations such as BuildForce and the Officers Association supported my transition to 'civvy street' as well as networking with other Veterans, learning from their experiences and benefiting from their wider network and potential opportunities.

A typical day now for me includes the following:

  • stakeholder meetings- discussing project progression, task updates and support as required
  • learning new aspects of the highways environment – reading and talking to experts about regulations, support contracts and operational considerations.
  • project management – given a task and managing it through its life cycle – learning on the way!

National Highways has been a business that has recognised my transferable skills and given me room to learn and grow into the role supporting teams and helping deliver maintenance changes and improvements to the network.

I was an Engineering Officer in the RAF for 16 years and left the Service in 2019. I was predominantly a commander of numerous personnel in different roles to support the maintenance both of aircraft and its onboard systems, whether they be aircrew survival equipment or aircraft explosive defensive countermeasures.

I have worked on transport aircraft, helicopter and fast-jet platforms, seeing the Tornado aircraft retire after 40 years of RAF service. Looking after people has been equally interesting and challenging, especially in operational environments and when things don’t go to plan for them personally or professionally.

National Highways has been my first employer post-military and I am a Senior Advisor in the Asset Management Development Group. In a simple sense, my military experience has been project/people management and I feel I've been able to transfer these skills to be successful in joining the company, promoting a flexible mindset, stakeholder engagement and employing a safety ethos which relates well to the National Highways values. 

My transition from the military to National Highways involved an organisation which connected people to industry and that organisation led me to the National Highways Armed Forces Network prior to joining, which not only helped me prepare but showed me the community which would be available in my new career. As a final point, National Highways has been an excellent employer throughout this challenging pandemic by supporting flexible working and the ongoing welfare of its employees; I feel fortunate to have joined National Highways from the military.

I'm currently an On Road Team Manager for National Highways - the skills I forged as a Cadets Forces Adult Volunteer with the Royal Marines Cadets have proved invaluable for my new role.

The Sea Cadets Corps (including Royal Marines Cadets) aims to give young people the best possible head start in life through fun and adventurous nautical activity. From learning new skills and working in teams, Sea Cadets offers an environment where young people find confidence and inspiration.

I most enjoy taking the time to listen to and speak individually with cadets and other adult volunteers. They are the main reason why I give so much of my time and energy to the Corps and I want them to know personally that their hopes, dreams and ambitions are important to me.

Among my proudest moments has to be seeing former cadets go onto a career in the armed services. One in particular stands out as he is now a Major with the Royal Marines Commandos, and yes, I have to salute him, but I am extremely proud to do so.

Being a cadet forces adult volunteer allows me to make a positive impact on others, from inspiring young people through to enhancing my local community. It has also helped me gain transferable skills, from teamwork, communication and manual skills, all of which have benefitted me in the workplace and in life.

I’ve met many different kinds of people, learning from them and making new friends for life. I get a boost in confidence through volunteering by having the chance to try something new, achieving things and feeling a sense of achievement - all this while instilling confidence in others too.

Through volunteering I have experienced challenges and pushed myself to achieve more. You could undertake the Duke of Edinburgh's award or many other accredited qualifications on offer - I'm currently working towards my ‘Train The Trainer’ qualification.

Volunteering experience can be seen as an asset by employers, demonstrating teamwork, motivation and positivity. Gaining leadership skills, problem solving experience and social skills will all help your résumé stand out.

Would I recommend volunteering? Absolutely, unequivocally, without hesitation and wholeheartedly.

Our Armed Forces programme

You’ve protected our country, now help us to keep it connected - our Armed Forces programme provides a supportive route into your civilian career.

Find out more