The Value of Hands-On Experience

26 June 2024
Reserves Day

After 31 years in the UK armed forces, Julian Barlow transitioned to a career as a Non-Destructive Testing Level 3 Specialist with Leonardo’s UK Helicopter business in Yeovil, the Home of British Helicopters. Here, Julian tells us about his passion for his military and civilian careers, and why he chose to become a reservist, while working with Leonardo.

“I served in the Royal Navy for just short of 31 years. I joined the Fleet Air Arm straight from school in 1989 aged 17 and remained until 2020, which is when I joined Leonardo,” says Julian.

“My trade with the Royal Navy was ‘M’ (mechanical). During my time in the military, I served with various Squadrons including 845 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) (Sneaking MKIV)), 1710 NAS (Repair) and, more recently, with the Royal Air Force (RAF) 71 (Inspection & Repair) Squadron where I worked on an exchange role.

“At Leonardo, I’ve continued my role as a Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) Level 3 Specialist. I work in the Materials Laboratory in our Yeovil Helicopters facility, covering the methods of Eddy Current Inspection, Magnetic Particle Inspection, Penetrant Inspection Testing and Acid Etch Inspection. I also work closely with Ministry of Defence (MOD) NDT personnel at 1710 NAS in all matters relating to NDT.”

Struggling to leave the military

When the time came to transition from military to civilian life, Julian was not ready to leave the service life behind completely, so signed up as Royal Navy Reservist with 71 (IR) Squadron based at RAF Wittering, home to the Tri-Service School of Non-Destructive Testing (TSSNDT).

“After 31 years of service and being in a military environment for pretty much most of my life, leaving the service was always a worrying thought. I think most service leavers, regardless of time spent, experience this. When the opportunity to serve as a Reservist became evident, it put my mind at ease a little to know that a huge part of my life was not just going to end overnight,” he explains.

“Throughout my service life, I always had a close tie with Leonardo through the roles I was in and the products I worked on. Being able to experience working on the other side of the fence – seeing how industry plays its part in MOD functions – was too good an opportunity to turn down. I live in Yeovil with my family too, so being able to spend more time at home after leaving the service also played a big part in my decision to leave and work at Leonardo.”

Educating a new generation of service personnel

To coincide with Reserves Day 2024, some of Julian’s squadron from RAF Wittering visited his home from home in the Material’s Laboratory in Yeovil.

Members of 71 Squadron visit Leonardo's site in Yeovil, the Home of British Helicopters

The visit forms part of the Squadron’s Continuous Personal Development Programme, with the team learning more about Leonardo’s NDT facilities in use on site. Visiting Yeovil provides an opportunity for the current regular forces personnel to learn more about the engineering capability on-site and develop a deeper understanding about Leonardo’s support for the armed forces and wider Social Values.

Fulfilling Reservist duties with Leonardo’s support 

Despite being based nearly 200 miles away from RAF Wittering and working day-to-day with the Royal Navy, Julian loves this role with the RAF Squadron.

“I get quite a bit of stick from my peers in Yeovil, but the Royal Navy equivalent – Navy Air Squadron 1710 in Portsmouth – didn’t have a place for me as a Reservist, so I stayed with the RAF!

“Leonardo supports me as a reservist with an additional 12 days paid leave a year to put towards my annual commitment of 17 reserve service days that I need to carry out. The company also has an Armed Forces Network Group, which supports service leavers in all kinds of ways to transition into the company. They hold monthly meetings and events which really helps people like me interact and meet other ex-members of the armed forces and serving reservists.”

Paraphrasing Liam Neeson in ‘Taken’, Julian believes that 71 (IR) Squadron has “a very particular set of skills”. The Squadron aims to deliver engineering manufacture and design capabilities in deployed locations, to repair damaged structures on fixed-wing military aircraft. These skills, alongside the many others learned during his 31 years serving his country, are things that Julian feels very proud of, and he believes others transitioning from the UK armed forces should not lose sight of the value that they can offer the wider defence industry.

“You must keep an open mind about what you can do and have confidence in your abilities,” says Julian. “Trust your training and your experiences. You will be surprised just how sought after those two things are in civilian life.”

Armed Forces Network Group

Leonardo's Armed Forces network group connects and supports our veterans, reservists and military family colleagues and communities. Additionally, it assists new employees as they transition from military to civilian life.

For the wider Leonardo UK business, the group helps enhance our collective sense of pride in being part of UK and allied defence, through sharing stories from our veterans, reservists and military families.

Transition from military service

Leonardo’s commitment to the Armed Forces Community is pledged through our support of the Armed Forces Covenant, while we have been awarded the UK MoD’s Employer Recognition Scheme Gold Award.

We understand that the transition from military service to civilian life can be a major challenge for some people. To address this, we work with the Career Transition Partnership to provide initial and ongoing support.

We also have a dedicated Armed Forces Network Group which supports Leonardo UK Armed Forces veterans, reservists and spouses or partners of serving members.

Developing your career

Leonardo’s growth in the UK has resulted from the skills, energy and dedication of our people. We are committed to equal opportunity and offering personal fulfilment through the highest quality education and development.

Looking to the future, we want reinforce our competitive position in the UK and other markets. To meet this challenge, we offer an environment for qualified people with the will to succeed and a passion for excellence to fulfil their potential and enable our company to stay at the forefront of innovation and technology.

Company Benefits

At Leonardo, we believe that our employees work best when they are able to achieve balance between work and other aspects of life. That’s why we are committed to designing policies and developing a working environment that promote the benefits and wellbeing of all our employees.

Interview Support

When we invite you for an interview, we want to hear about you; your achievements and what you can bring. By thinking about the role you are applying for, align your skills and experience to it. Make it easy for the Hiring Manager to decide you are the best candidate they can select for the role.

When preparing for your interview, review the company website and enhance your knowledge as much as possible, such as where Leonardo is present, who our customers are, and what is important to us i.e. sustainability, corporate social responsibility. Look at our mission and values and consider how your own values align to us. Read some of our employee profiles, speak to anyone you know who works for us, and follow us on social media.

We carry out Competency Based Interviews (CBI). To help you prepare, we suggest you make yourself aware of the BACK model:

  • Background – What was the situation and what was your goal?
  • Action – What action did you take?
  • Consequence – What was the outcome / end result?
  • Knowledge – What feedback was received? / How was the success measured? What did you learn from this experience? / Is there anything you would have done differently?