The UK’s first NAFESE was held today in Sunderland


The first large-scale National Armed Forces and Emergency Services Event (NAFESE) was held today, April 27, at the Stadium of Light.

Sponsored by the University of Sunderland, the event featured a number of stalls and activities, covering workforce deployment courses and degree apprenticeships.

Beginning at 9:00 am with an Armed Forces Veterans Breakfast Club in Quinn’s Bar, followed by a powerful speech by ex-veteran Joe Rimmer, 43, who told listeners of his battle and recovery from alcoholism after leaving the Armed Forces.

“I was drinking nine litres of cider a day, with half a bottle of JD on top, and was fully functioning. That’s how I knew it was bad.”

Rimmer, from Liverpool, described his life as ‘being consumed by drinking’, with it becoming progressively worse after the death of his mother.

“I knew I had an issue, I just did not want to address it.” He continued. “When my mum died, it was the catalyst that I did not want to be here, so I continued drinking until my body said, “enough is enough.”

Joe Rimmer has reportedly been sober since October 20, 2018, after being hospitalised due to liver failure.

“The soldier in me told me it is time to start manning up.”

Exhibitors at the event included Sunderland Software City, Cleveland Police, Forces Pension Society, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, MedCover, McTimoney College of Chiropractic, and more with over 40 in attendance.

Schools and Colleges were invited to attend and meet engagement teams.

Veterans Into Logistics National Project Coordinator Alec Mcfaddon, told SGM how they are recruiting ex-veterans for positions as heavy-goods drivers. With the starting salary reported to be at £30,000 and above. He said “When they come out [of the Forces] they need looking after, if they get a job with the training provided, they will be set for life.”

Referencing Joe Rimmer’s speech, McFaddon said “they wont be able to drink because you can’t drink and drive.”

You can find more information about what the company offers by going to their website –

From the North East Business and Innovation Center, John Forth, said “we have a program to help ex-forces into either self-employment, a hybrid of self-employment and employment, or even signposting them to employment. We work with them by analyzing their skill set and seeing what transferrable skills they have, and seeing if they would like to go down the route of self-employment because of the flexibility of it.”

They are offering a 12-week program that aims to identify what type of employment participants would like to aim towards, which progresses into a business development course.

“People coming out of the armed forces and not finding employment is a big problem, and they have so many transferrable skills, but the normal working life maybe is not suitable for them.”

You can find more information about the course they offer by following this link –

Simone Bedford, Associate Head of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, and a Royal Air Force Veteran herself, says: “The University of Sunderland is very proud of our connections to the Armed Forces. We have a dedicated team to support staff and students with the transition from the military into ‘civvy’ street. Our Veterans and Reservists Network engages with staff and students to ensure we offer the best support to the military community at the university.”

Completing the event series was the 2023 Services Awards with awards categories for the best in service for the British Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, Police, NHS, Volunteer Services and Fire Service.