Dale Thompson From Electrician To CNet Instructor
You may recognise the name of our case study focus today as we celebrated his new role in January when we saw the announcement and now he has come back to us with the full story of his time in the military and what it was like as he transitioned to Civvy Street and what a story that is! If you’re looking for some great advice or just a wholesome story of success than this is for you.
Dale Thompson joined digital infrastructure technical education provider CNet Training as an Instructor in December 2022 in his first civilian job role following over 25 years in the Forces. Dale shares his story and advice for anyone contemplating their post-service career options.
“I've spent a significant chunk of my life in service, having joined the Army in 1997. Throughout the years, I always knew I'd eventually have a job on the ‘outside’ and looking ahead to my potential civvy career at various points in life, I recognised there would be substantial differences.”
“I served in the Royal Corps of Signals and spent the initial 15 years of my service training to be, and working as, an electrician. My primary workplace during that time was in the field, carrying out what the civilian industry equivalent of which would be something along the lines of event power. Imagine big generators at festivals, that type of thing, except my ‘festivals’ were in various deployments across the globe, including Afghanistan, Cyprus, Kenya and Canada.”
“In 2012, I started working alongside the infrastructure lads on operations. I dealt with the power aspect of the data centre while they handled the installation side. From there, I soon progressed to working on telecoms infrastructure – both fibre and copper. The Royal School of Signals had adopted CNet Training’s Certified Network Cable Installer (CNCI®) program in 2017 as the official certification for their installation technicians, so I completed both the CNCI® Fibre Optic Cabling and CNCI® Copper Cabling elements of the program in Blandford as part of my military training. The programs were a good mix of technical knowledge and practical activities, and they gave me confidence and reassurance at the time knowing that the certification and qualifications I gained are recognised and sought after, both in the military and out.”
“Alongside the infrastructure work, I also completed a BTEC level 4 in Teaching in The Lifelong Learning Sector and an ILM level 3 in Coaching to qualify as an instructor. For the best part of 15 years, I was also tasked with delivering training in everything from basic weapon handling, which was quite straightforward training in small classes, to teaching the power aspect of RSY training (which is the initial training you get when you deploy out on operations, covering health and safety, etc), sometimes to two or three hundred people. My penultimate assignment in the Army was solely concentrated on delivering technical training, which I found both challenging and rewarding, and then finally, I spent four years assigned to working on the development of the technical training.”
“Throughout the years that I was leading a team, I always used to tell my lads, your resettlement starts from the day you pass out of phase two training. I would challenge them to complete one military and one civilian course per year to help them on that journey, and I’d encourage anyone reading this to do the same. Of course, the chain of command means there is pressure on you to get the tick in the military box, but also go and do something for yourself. It’s not just educational courses that are available, you can choose areas you think you’ll enjoy, such as power boat handling, adventure training, hill walking or rock climbing.”
“Each non-military course you complete could either be funded or part-funded, and you’re giving yourself time to plan your civvy life by narrowing down what you do (and don’t want to do). I’ve chosen courses in the past that I thought I’d really enjoy, then I’ve gone away and done them and realised they’re not for me and thought “I’m not doing that again!”. That’s of as much value for the future as finding something you do enjoy, as you’re eliminating something you thought would be a go-er before you get too far down the road with it.”
“This attitude means I’ve always had one eye on the future and have been consciously resettling for the best part of ten years to make sure I was good to go on the outside. You hear horror stories of people getting out and not having houses or being settled anywhere particular, worrying about what they’re going to do with their lives now, and I was adamant I didn’t want to end up in that position.”
“The official time you get allocated for resettlement differs depending on your length of service. I completed the full service and was therefore given two years to resettle but, in truth, I’d done all my resettlement prior to that two-year period, and spent most of my official resettlement time on building and home maintenance; all practical skills that I wanted to acquire and had the benefit of personally at the time, like a kitchen fitting course so I could fit my own kitchen!”
“My plan was to join the reserves and work as an installation technician – I'd thought it through and knew I'd get enjoyment from it. Despite having been instructing so long I’d never actually thought of going into that in resettlement, and already being CNCI® certified, I’d always banked on doing the installation side.
I’ve known Clint Sherratt (Head of Technical Development at CNet) and Craig Larkins (Technical Developer also at CNet) for years and when they suggested I might be a good fit for the Instructor role at CNet, I jumped at it. I’d had some past interaction with the company, having completed the CNCI® and I’d also met Olly Day (CNet’s Resettlement Adviser) a few times at Forces careers fairs and had some positive conversations with him.”
“One month into the role, I’m really enjoying it. As expected, it’s completely different to what I’m used to, but from day one, I was welcomed with open arms. The CNet Instructor team are all experts in their field but they’re also enthusiastic about sharing that knowledge, which is brilliant for learners but also for me joining the ranks! It’s been reassuring that as soon I arrived, there was a plan in place for me that so far has included the Train-the-Trainer course, shadowing other Instructors and teach backs. Nobody knows everything after all, and CNet ensures that all Instructors undertake a rigorous process to make certain their knowledge of each subject and quality of delivery meets their expectations. I now understand why CNet’s Instructors are world-renowned and are often called on to join associations and committees that define how that industry will operate in the future.”
“Once I've completed CNet’s Instructor training process, I will be delivering the Certified Network Cable Installer (CNCI®) program that I undertook myself while in the Sigs, and I can’t wait to get started. The CNCI® is the military and industry preferred certification for network cable installation, and I never dreamed for one moment that I’d be delivering it when I completed the program myself. Having been in the position of learner and then exercising the knowledge that I’d gained in my career, I’m excited and honoured to be able to pass on that knowledge and experience to benefit future learners.”
Dale’s Key Takeaways:
- Use your ELCs, they’re there to be spent. It sounds obvious but a lot of people just don’t use the money and end up losing the funding.
- Start planning from day one. Even if you don’t know what your end goal is, use the time to work out what you do and don’t enjoy, and give it time to fall into place.
- Use your contacts and talk to people. They may well suggest something that seems obvious to them but might not have occurred to you.
- The Army may call it CPD, but I’ve always called it resettlement. Even though you’re there to do a job, you’re still there to progress yourself - don’t forget that.
Dale’s Service Career:
Date enlisted: September 1997
Years served: 25
Exit date: December 2022
Final rank: SSgt
Service branch: Royal Corp of Signals
Specialisation/trade: Power Engineer
Dale is passionate about education, leadership and culture. His experience within the Royal Corps of Signals stands him in excellent stead to deliver complex technical program material with clarity and zeal. Dale holds a BTEC level 4 in Teaching in The Lifelong Learning Sector and an ILM level 3 in Coaching.
It’s amazing to see someone who went from the Military to CNet student to CNet Instructor, what an amazing journey! Dale has truly been through every stage any service leaver would be lucky to have and we hope to see many more stories like Dale. Finding the thing your passionate about at an early stage is difficult but because he knew the steps he had to take and had been working with CNet for a while it made his resettlement that much easier. That’s why we recommend starting the conversations with companies as early as you can to maximise your chance of a smooth transition.
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