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Supporting the Defence Force - the value of employing reservists

Why employ an Army or Navy reservist? They receive valuable training at no cost to the employer, that's why. And they also bring with them attributes such as adaptability, comradeship and the ability to problem-solve.


Across New Zealand more than 1200 people - from all walks of life - regularly swap 'suits for boots' at the weekend in order to serve as a Reservist. In doing so they acquire high quality management and leadership experience and world- class technical training in areas such as engineering, medicine and information technology.


"Reserves are a vital and integral part of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF)" says Captain Simon Rooke, Director of Reserve Forces.


"As well as being the public face of the Defence Force and providing an important civic and ceremonial presence across New Zealand on Anzac Day and other important events, they are a vital source of manpower, knowledge and experience that is of tremendous value in supporting civil defence and also giving the Navy and the Army greater capacity and capability, at home and overseas whether on operations or exercise.


"Reservists with specialised or niche skills such as surgeons, project managers, HR professionals or engineers provide the Defence Force with a depth of expertise which would not be cost effective to have in the regular Army or Navy and which can be a significant force multiplier that they would not normally have access to.


"At the same time these individuals get to operate in a unique military environment and really stretch themselves to the limit as they operate well outside their comfort zone. For example, it is one thing to be a qualified motor mechanic, but trying to do the same job in the field, at night with little sleep on an armoured vehicle, while under fire is a very different experience!


"For employers, I strongly believe that hiring reservists is a win-win situation. The military training they receive develops extremely relevant core skills such as self-confidence, determination, teamwork, problem solving, leadership and the ability to work under pressure.


"Reservists understand the critical importance of being team players with the ability to lead and follow as circumstances dictate and be confident in making decisions with little guidance. These are all skills that are of great value for employers."


For employers the benefits of reserve service are significant. Most activity is carried out outside of work hours, however, to deliver the level and quality of training that is needed to enable individual reservists to perform to the required high standard there is a requirement for time away from work.


In order to build and maintain their skills, Reservists need to be able to attend a variety of training each year. They are required to train for around 20 days a year, mostly on weekend exercises and training evenings, but they may be required to attend an annual week long field exercise or development course.


Employers are asked to grant up to three weeks' military leave a year to enable attendance on these courses and exercises.


Military leave can consist of unpaid leave, paid leave or a mixture of the two. The solution is very much the result of a conversation between the Reservist and their employer in order to come up with a mutually agreeable solution.


Understanding the rights and responsibilities of serving Reservists can seem daunting. The Defence Employer Support Council (DESC) can provide advice on how the employment of reservists can be successfully managed with the minimum of disruption, in line with legislation and make sure you reap the benefits of having motivated and skilled Reservists in the workplace.


"Having the support of employers is critical for the NZDF in ensuring that its Reservists are able to operate effectively, " says Captain Rooke. "I know that many business owners, especially the small and medium sized enterprises which make up most of the New Zealand workforce are busy people, however the staff at DESC are available free of charge to ensure that all employers are well supported.


"They can provide advice on developing flexible HR policies, help businesses to understand service obligations and ensure that supportive employers are recognised through a national employer awards scheme.


"Many reservists make tremendous sacrifices in order to serve but in doing so make a significant contribution to not only the Defence Force but also to New Zealand at home and abroad.


Having a supportive employer gives these Reservists security in their employment. Clear expectations ensure no surprises, which is good for them, good for their employer and good for the NZDF," he said.


For advice and guidance on employing reservists, the benefits to business and national recognition opportunities for reservist employers contact the Defence Employer Support Council on [email protected].




Army reservist Zoe Hughes


On any one day project manager Zoe Hughes could be sitting at her computer in central Wellington, or training to blow things up in the wilds of Waiouru.


Waihi born Zoe works for professional services firm, Beca, in the Project and Cost Management team. Her role sees her assisting in the management and execution of a number of projects including seismic strengthening, new builds and fit-outs for a variety of clients in Wellington.


At the same time as making sure buildings in the capital don't come down, she is also a reservist member of the Corps of Royal New Zealand Engineers.


After completing a degree in supply chain management and finance at the University of Waikato, Zoe relocated to Wellington to take up her position with Beca. At the same time she decided to apply to join the Army Reserve.


Zoe said: "I have always been interested in the military history of New Zealand and felt it was the right time to look at what the opportunities were with the Army Reserve.


"Basic training at Waiouru was an amazing experience that really tested me mentally and physically. Marching off the parade square at the end of the course after accomplishing so much was something I will always remember.


"Although joining the Army Reserve was a very personal decision it was important to me that my employer was engaged and involved from the beginning, especially having just started with Beca.


"I was slightly apprehensive about how my decision would be received, but the support I received from the company and my manager was awesome. I was supported from the start of the process, ensuring that the appropriate paperwork was done, that my leave was approved in good time and being genuinely interested in what I had been up to. Getting an email from my manager half way through my basic training asking how I was meant a lot.


"I am looking forward to starting my trade training and becoming a reserve combat engineer, learning and practising a lot of basic engineering skills such as bridging, demolition, surveying and construction.


"I am sure that doing this will be of benefit in my day job. Bringing to Beca the skills I have acquired such as leadership, teamwork and self-discipline, together with world-class military engineering training, can only be a good thing and I am looking forward to progressing in both Beca and 2 Engineer Regiment.


Zoe's manager, Saiful Islam said, "We always try to be supportive of the activities that our colleagues do outside of the workplace. You don't just leave your personal life at the door when you come to work, and the experiences that people have really shapes the way they contribute to the team environment and the projects we deliver for our clients. With Zoe, we've seen her willingness to get out of her comfort zone and ability to take on challenges with confidence and she's demonstrating excellent interpersonal skills, many of which have been developed through the Corps of Royal New Zealand Engineers."


For expert advice and guidance on employing reservists visit