First golf club for Defence Employer Award

Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Devon presented an award to Exeter Golf and Country Club for their support of the Reserve Forces at the annual Lord-Lieutenant’s Awards for the County of Devon. The awards celebrate the professional and personal achievements of dedicated members of the community who work or volunteer within the Reserve Forces and the Cadet Movement.

Exeter Golf and Country Club is the first golf club in the UK to receive the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme Silver Award.  Recognised for their notable support for people from the wider Defence community, Exeter Golf and Country Club was one of six Devon based companies presented with the award.

The Silver Award recognises employers who actively demonstrate support by employing or providing workplace experience for the Armed Forces Community of Reservists, Cadets, Forces Adult Volunteers, Service Leavers or military spouses. Businesses are nominated for the annual awards by a third-party and invited to the presentation evening, which this year was at Dartington Hall.

Exeter Golf and Country Club have been active supporters of the armed forces since 2012, when their Gym Manager, Lee Cooke became a Reservist for the RAF. Lee’s obligations included monthly training days and additional time off for training exercises. The club provided Lee with extra annual leave to accommodate this. In 2014, Lee was called up for a tour of duty in Afghanistan. This meant six months away from work. Exeter Golf and Country Club enabled this by reinforcing the gym team, employing another member of staff to cover his absence.

On his return, Lee required a period of reintegration to re-establish the management of his team and adjust to civilian life again. General Manager, Chris Jones visited RAF Brize Norton for a familiarisation visit for employers to gain deeper understanding of their Reservist employees and their forces responsibilities.

After some time, the club invited Lee to present to their members with a slot at their regular ‘Teatime Talk’ events. The evening was a sell-out and the talk lasted twice the length as usual at the request of the members attending. At the talk, Lee explained his experience of being a Reservist and described his time in Afghanistan with stories and memorabilia.

Chris Jones, General Manager of Exeter Golf and Country Club said, “Collecting the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme Silver Award was one of the proudest moments of my employment at Exeter Golf and Country Club. It was an honour to meet Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant and many dignitaries from across the county including the Lord Mayor of Exeter and the Chairman of Devon County Council. Support for our team members is at the heart of our employment ethos at Exeter Golf and Country Club and so we did everything we could to enable Lee to fulfil his responsibilities as a RAF Reservist. The fact that his actions as a Reservist supports the British Armed Forces makes this especially important to us.”

Having signed the Armed Forces Covenant in 2015, the club demonstrated their ongoing commitment and are seeking ways to develop this further.

Jon Beake, Senior Employer Engagement Director of Wessex Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association said, “Exeter Golf and Country Club were selected for the Silver Award for their extensive commitment to their Reservist employee.  The Reservist, badged to 4624 Squadron of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, was supported by the Club through training and mobilisation for Operation Herrick.  Through an additional leave allowance and other benefits, they allowed their Reservist employee to progress in the Reserves knowing that he had the full backing of his employers, enabling him to achieve the greatest outcomes from his service.  Alongside a wide range of pledges made in their Covenant to the Armed Forces community, Exeter Golf and Country Club has also promoted the merits of Reservist service to their members, organising events at which their Reservist employee has taught others about the value of his career and his experience.”

Exeter Golf and Country Club have pledged support to the Armed Forces in other ways as well, such as talks with ex-Marine Commando Paul Vice and their forthcoming event, ‘An Evening with Simon Weston’.  Their Club Presidents have also selected linked charities for their annual fundraising, with next year’s being The Royal Marines Charity.

Chris Jones continued, “There are many reasons why the club is an advocate of employing members of the wider Armed Forces. Transferable skills, demonstrable commitment to the community and individual personal development are just three reasons why the effort is worthwhile for employers. We take great pride in encouraging our staff to find fulfilment both in and out of work and highly recommend other companies explore how working with Reservists, Cadets and others linked to the Armed Forces can prove beneficial. We are always happy to discuss our experience with any businesses considering an involvement.”

Companies who want to get involved should contact Wessex Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association: