This Award honours a business that was started up by an individual linked with the Armed Forces, that has a made a real impact within the Armed Forces Community.

The Award is generously sponsored by Cisco. The company helps to create a digital society that works for everyone. After over 30 years of connecting the UK and Ireland, Cisco is in a great place to help accelerate its digital future. Nearly every Internet connection in the UK touches Cisco technology and the firm is investing in projects across the nation to support innovation, from smart cities to transport, healthcare and manufacturing, to cyber-security and digital skills.


“Cisco are proud to be associated with the Soldiering On Awards, X-Forces Enterprise and the British Armed Forces. It is humbling to be involved with this wonderful event and all of the finalists have our total admiration.”

Paul Garvey, Head of Government & National Security, Cisco



The Finalists for the Business Community Impact Award are:

Armour to Barber

Armour to Barber (A2B) enables ex-service personnel to learn a respected trade and reinvent themselves in an exciting and rewarding industry.

Founder Liam Hamilton served 21 years in the Coldstream Guards before being medically discharged with PTSD. Facing a lack of post-service employment opportunities, he focused on setting up his own barbershop in Redruth.  Liam recognised the skills shortage across the industry and realised that Veterans had the attributes to make exceptional barbers: patience, people skills, attention to detail and the ability to stand on their feet all day! He set about building a programme that would support prospective barbers and solve the industry’s skill shortage and, in May 2017, Armour to Barber was born.

A2B is making an impact across several communities: fulfilling careers for service-leavers, a settled life for their families, and supporting the future of both the barbering industry and the local communities in which the new trainees provide a valued and important service.

“Aware of the fragility of mental health in Veterans, Liam is open in admitting that he struggles every day and, had it not been for the unfaltering support of his wife Sara, he may not have been able to make it to this position of being able to support others.”

A strong secondary benefit has arisen from A2B’s work. Customers often feel more comfortable sharing their feelings with their barber than they do with their families and, in response to this, Liam hosts meetings in his barbershop for Man Down, Cornwall’s support network for men struggling with mental health.

“The profile of the organisation is growing and more than 120 barbershops have pledged to be part of the scheme and accept ex-military trainees.


Motivational Preparation College for Training (MPCT)

The Motivational Preparation College for Training (MPCT) was founded in 1999 by Huw Lewis MBE. Its mission is to engage, motivate and educate young people between the ages of 16-19, inspiring them to better themselves by attending its full time 9-5 college programme within a military context.

MPCT strives to promote opportunities such as internships, work placements and apprenticeships, as well as helping people to gain qualifications and support their continuous professional development. Of 39 sites across England and Wales, 28 are Military Preparation Colleges where all instructors are ex-Armed Forces.  The curriculum operates on 12 core values, including integrity, resilience and robustness, with 40% of the curriculum in physical training, resulting in the astonishing transformation of many students. Learner satisfaction and achievement rates consistently remain significantly above the national benchmarking measurements.

“A recent learner survey showed that an amazing 97.5% of learners were satisfied with their learning experience.”

MPCT partners with many relevant agencies and businesses to help increase staff skills. This includes working with the Armed Forces, sport and active leisure industry, national careers services, voluntary agencies and many local and national employers.

The College is well positioned to be at the heart of its communities in every region of the UK, educating learners to become productive citizens. It provides a stable platform from which young people become socially mobile and can contribute to the wealth of our nation.

 “Main impacts include reduced offending or re-offending, improved social skills and helping young people into employment.”


Turn to Starboard

Turn to Starboard, the only Forces’ sailing charity, uses the therapeutic benefits of sailing to support service personnel who have been affected by military operations. Its founder is Shaun Pascoe, who served in the RAF for16 years before discovering the benefits of sailing whilst recovering from PTSD.  Shaun’s determination to share his love of sailing and change Veterans’ lives has helped thousands of people since he set up Turn to Starboard in 2012.

The charity gives Veterans the opportunity to gain internationally recognised RYA qualifications ranging from Competent Crew to Yachtmaster Offshore. It also opens doors to future careers within the marine industry anywhere in the world.

“Some individuals are hugely affected by their symptoms when they arrive at the charity. For them to experience something that changes their outlook and become happier people is a huge motivator.”

Turn to Starboard is innovative in its concept. The charity does not simply give Veterans qualifications; Shaun focuses on the individual at hand, supporting them holistically. This helps them to engage better with life and their families, and look forward to positive futures and rewarding careers.

When Shaun began, Veterans and their families could sail for a full summer sailing season for no cost. Since then, the number of sailing opportunities has grown each year and figures far outweigh the charity’s initial targets. Shaun initially stated that he would sail 12 service personnel during the course of a year. This could not have been more of an underestimation; to date, Turn to Starboard has provided over 2,800 sailing opportunities since its founding.

 “It’s important to remember that success for Turn to Starboard is about changing lives and having a positive impact. Shaun realised the profound effect sailing has on recovery and wanted to provide the same opportunity to other Veterans in need. Since then, motivation for success has been seeing the transformation in beneficiaries when engaging in Turn to Starboard.“

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for any good news stories from our incredible Finalists – or tell us yours!  It’s always great to read anything that’s not Coronavirus-related, so if you share anything relevant on social media, please remember to tag us! We’ll happily share and retweet you, giving you and your organisation, if relevant, extra exposure.

You can see our full list of Finalists in each category here.


What’s next?

Please click here for an update on how we’ll be celebrating this year’s winners in light of the restrictions imposed due to Covid-19.


To find out about the Soldiering On Awards Independent Judging Panel who had the tough task of selecting this year’s Finalists, click here.

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