The idea of working in technology or digital for the Ministry of Defence sounds pretty challenging: providing IT to 250,000 people across multiple locations, including those deployed on the battlefield.
However there are lots of reasons why it could be an attractive option. For example, (still relatively good) job security and conditions, well-defined career paths and opportunities to rotate across teams and roles.
The MOD’s IT department (Information Systems and Services) is currently undergoing major changes: taking more control over management and integration from its incumbent suppliers, introducing more cloud services and boosting security capability, to name just a few.
There are similar reforms taking across all the armed forces under the MOD’s wing: the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the British Army and the Royal Air Force.
So anyone joining now would do so at a time of unprecedented change – and could have a real influence over the strategy and delivery of IT within the department. ISS employs more than 2,500 people and has a budget of about £1.5 billion a year.
What are the routes into the MOD?
There are all sorts of ways to get into the department: as an apprentice, through the civil service-wide ‘Fast Stream’ graduate scheme, as a short-term contractor, or through more traditional route of applying for roles posted on the civil service jobs website, where all jobs are advertised.
Jobs are also “advertised in the Guardian when required”, according to an MOD spokesman, so it’s well worth keeping an eye there too. The department does not “typically go to [jobs] fairs”, he added.
If you want to apply for a job in one of the armed forces directly (as opposed to the MOD), you need to “look at the websites for the relevant service and apply via the recruitment channels therein”, the spokesman explained.
It is well worth looking at that route too. The Army has one of the biggest apprenticeship schemes in the UK – they recruit 8,000 individuals every year – and a number of them are in IT or tech-related.
For graduates, every September the ‘Civil Service Fast Stream’ opens for applications and takes on about 1,000 individuals, some of them within defence and/or technology and digital.
For non-graduates or those with more experience, it’s well worth looking on the civil service jobs website. There are currently over 20 roles in IT and digital on offer in the MOD, ranging from security specialists, project managers, developers, analytics experts and even a chief technology officer, for the UK Hydrographic Office.
Finally, for those who want to be involved but cannot work full-time, there are always opportunities to volunteer for the reserves, which is becoming an increasingly important route for the department to get in new skills, according to 'operate and defend’ chief Alan Hill.
Where are the jobs based?
Jobs in the MOD are not just based in Whitehall, although its HQ is obviously located there.
The department and military operate in locations right across the UK, including Bristol, Lincoln, Cambridgeshire, Portsmouth, Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands, Bedford, Luton, Liverpool, Corsham, Taunton and Warrington – and others.
What sort of salaries and benefits are on offer?
A number of the developer, security auditor, information and system manager, system engineer, analyst and support roles advertised on the MOD’s page of the civil service jobs website start on £24,000.
The average IT/digital salary currently being advertised is £31,000, but if they rise up the ranks staff can expect to earn salaries of £40,000 or even upwards of £60,000.
Fast stream graduates start on between £25,000 and £27,000 but this can go up to £45,000 after four or five years.
Apprentices generally earn about £14,000 in their first year, £15,000 in the second and £18,000 in their third (and final) year, according to MOD documents.
Top IT staff at the MOD can earn six-figure salaries. Two roles – for directors of service development and design – were recently advertised at £130,000 each. So the MOD is willing to fork out large sums for top talent.
All MOD staff are entitled to at least 25 days holiday each year and can get access to civil service pension schemes.
Which skills are currently most in demand?
Like many organisations, the MOD is particularly keen to recruit people with up-to-date tech skills, for example cloud and data centre technologies, according to Hill.
“Data scientists are very important for us in the analytical space and there’s a big shortfall”, chief digital and information officer Mike Stone said recently.
The MOD plans to recruit more DevOps, test, integration and management skills, plus wants to appoint more business, enterprise and technical architects, he added.
The department also particularly wants to recruit people (or find volunteers) with experience in cyber security.
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