Twin transitions: how can veterans in the North East of England engage with the net zero economy?


   Centre for Social Innovation

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  Dr Emma Armstrong  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Most service leavers need to work upon leaving the military (Walker, 2013), and the vast majority do so successfully and contribute positively to the civilian workforce (Deloitte, 2016; Iversen and Greenberg, 2009). Extant research has explored the transition into some specific roles, such as private security (Higate, 2013), though little attention has been paid to the potential for veterans within the so-called ‘green industrial revolution’. Beyond specific trade relevance, veterans have valuable and desirable skillsets to civilian employers. A report by Deloitte (2016) notes that the majority of organisations that actively recruit veterans reflect positively on their contributions to the workplace. However, the feasibility of military-to-green-job transitions is a nascent research field, with notable work from Liverpool John Moores University as part of the Veteran’s Green Energy Forum. Yet there is a paucity of research into what we are calling the ‘twin transition’ of both military-to-civilian life, and from carbon-intensive to low carbon production, specifically within the North East of England where 5% of the adult population are armed forces veterans and where much of this green industrial development is occurring. This PhD explores policy issues concerning levelling up, how just transitions to net zero economy can be harnessed for veterans, what barriers they face in entering this new workforce, and how the soft skills of belonging and collective identity can be harnessed to promote pro-environmental behaviour change within green industries in the region.

The project has the potential to satisfy two practical and research challenges: procuring skilled workers to deliver the green industrial revolution; and finding meaningful work for veterans which has proven to be beneficial to their wellbeing (Bellotti et al., 2011). However, there are several factors which must be considered before pursuing this prospect. Civilian employers’ perceptions of veterans can be a barrier to veteran’s obtaining work, whether this be around the assumed transferability of their skills or concerns around mental and physical health (Forces in Mind Trust, 2015; Stone and Stone, 2015). For veterans, it can be challenging to: identify hierarchies within new workspaces (Caddick, 2016); begin at the bottom of hierarchies again despite years of experience; integrate with civilian colleagues (Beech et al., 2017); and find work characterised by a sense of belonging and purpose (Albertson, 2019).

To explore these issues, you could conduct a combination of qualitative, ethnographic and participatory research with veterans and civilian employers who operate within the net zero economy, and produce a nascent career transition map outlining how veterans in the North East could be integrated into the green economy. As a potential output from the PhD, you could produce a tool-kit or other engagement/educational resource to demonstrate transferable skills to employers, or identify a way to recognise military experiences in accordance with desired qualifications/training obtainable within civilian spheres. Furthermore, the findings and conclusions drawn could inform organisational policy and practice at a regional level in line with Tees Valley Combined Authority’s net zero industrial cluster planning process.

The supervisor is Dr Emma Armstrong from the Centre for Social Innovation.

Entry requirements

You should hold or expect to obtain a good honours degree (2:1 or above) in a relevant discipline. A master’s level qualification in a relevant discipline is desirable, but not essential, as well as a demonstrable understanding of the research area. International students will be subject to the standard entry criteria relating to English language ability, ATAS clearance and, when relevant, UK visa requirements and procedures.

Applications are welcome from UK, EU and International students.

How to apply

Application is online.

Key dates

  • Application closing date: 5.00pm,5 February 2024.
  • Shortlisting and interviews: March 2024.
  • Start date: October 2024.
Biological Sciences (4) Education (11) Environmental Sciences (13) Politics & Government (30)

Funding Notes

The fully-funded PhD studentship covers tuition fees for the period of a full-time PhD Registration of up to four years and provides an annual tax-free stipend of £18,622 for three years, subject to satisfactory progress.