Employability in the International Development industry.

What makes a good international development professional?

The international development industry is populated by a diverse group of people from a wide cross section of disciplines. These include special forces soldiers, to softer skills, such as experts in human resources and community engagement.

How then, does someone wanting to enter in to the development world prepare himself or herself for their career choice?  The answer is the same for all questions: “it depends”.

In this case, it depends on two things: First, the area of development they want to get in to, and second, their current skill set or qualifications. Each will drive the other.

The international development world is (at its most basic level) split in to two branches.  First, the humanitarian Non – Government Agencies such as International Red Cross, Medicine San Frontier,  Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam and a whole plethora of others.  Then there are the private companies, some not for profit, who do contracted and sub contract work for mostly western government departments and international government agencies such as the U.S. state department, EU Development Funds, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the United Nations.

NGA’s tend to deal with issues such as agriculture development, water supply, public health, education, child protection etc. Whereas the government organisations deal with security, justice, policing, and governance usually in partnership and very close liaison with the host country government.  This is not exclusively the case, however, and there are a lot of crossover programmes and contracts.  NGA’s also tend to be able to go to areas where governments are unable to, except when they are engaged in direct intervention, such as live war zones and across closed borders.

In terms of skill sets all programmes will have common elements.  There is almost every conceivable type of programme, from high-level government capability development (around such things as government financial controls and policy) to building affordable housing.  All programmes need managing so there are a lot of people drawn to the industry via programme management experience and expertise.  There is always a financial control required so financial managers are part of the structure as is supply chain, warehousing, procurements, legal services and security.

There is then an element of technical expertise around the design and implementation of the programme, so for instance, if the aim of the programme is to train and mentor the police of a certain country, you would expect to see a heavily weighted programme to support this with a number of policing experts.  The same would be true if the aim of the programme was to supply heavy equipment for infrastructure building, it would be reasonable to expect technical experts with construction experience to be an integral part of the programme staff.

The first question anyone aspiring to get in to the international development world should ask themselves is: What sort of organisation do I want to work for?   The answer will once again depend on what they want out of the experience personally.   Do they want to be involved in humanitarian work for NGO’s, funded by charities and international agencies? Or development work funded by governments? Both options have pros and cons attached which could be discussed extensively, but eventually it comes down to an individual choice.

The second question would then naturally be: What do I want to do within the career path I have decided on? Followed by, what skill sets will I then require and what have I already got? All are fairly obvious questions, but surprisingly, ones which don’t appear to be very common.  Most people who are in this field tend to have arrived without giving it much thought.  Some tend to believe that their previous position or experience is enough to secure themselves a second career. However, some do see the career path before them and do plan.

I recently delivered a lecture for a master’s course in a northern university, when this subject came up.  Every student in the class of 35+ considered that they did not have the required skills and experience to enter the international development world.  I suspect if I had been speaking to a similar group of American students they would have had a totally different outlook on their own employability.   The group I was addressing were second year psychology students most of whom were interested in criminology and criminal psychology; not a natural fit for the international development industry at first glance but, once you break down what they have studied in terms of human behaviour and how people interact with each other in stress situations the picture starts to become different.  When further questioned about what students did outside university, the picture changed again.  Some worked in banks and financial institutions, some were members of reserve armed forces and others had previously been engineering and media graduates.  All are skills that are in demand in the development industry.

University degrees are not compulsory for this line of work but if you have other skills and qualifications a suitable degree can only enhance your employability.  Some international government agencies, such as the UN insist, on a minimum of a master’s degree for positions above a certain pay grade.

There are several universities which offer degrees up to master’s level in international security, governance and development.  (As well as terrorist studies at diploma and certificate level.)  More are becoming available all the time, Liverpool University is about to launch a new degree course which centers on the development industry professionals and people who want to enter the industry.  The course is modular, so it encourages the use and enhancement of existing skills as well as providing academic underpinning of their knowledge.

None of the above prevents anyone who wants to enter the industry just going for it, as extra skills and qualifications can be acquired whilst in the industry. The advantage of this strategy is that you would have a better idea of what you wanted and needed to obtain for your chosen path.  The opportunity to speak and learn from others about what is required and the different methods and career streams can also not be underestimated once immersed in the industry.

I have personally worked with people who are on programmes because they are: Lawyers, police officers, soldiers, analysts, researchers, programme managers, linguists, town planners, builders, engineers, politicians, experts in communications, IT, finance, supply chain, procurements, project management and HR. I’ve also worked with specialists in land mine clearance, bomb disposal, first aid, emergency rescue, strategic communications and marketing.

Living and working away from home is not for everyone, but if these are things that you can deal with, then there are many rewards that come with international working.  The chance to travel to otherwise unattainable places (or at least unusual) is a big pull for some people.  The financial rewards can also be excellent, but be aware that there is usually a reason that you are being paid well, that could be because the programme is in a dangerous or hostile environment, or because the living conditions are challenging, for example. All of these factors should be considered when you are presented with a contract.

What is Celox ™ and why do we use it?

Whenever we run a First Aid course, we always ask our learners the same question:

“Have you heard of Celox™” ?

We are yet to find a learner who has answered “Yes” to this question, and this has surprised us, because we genuinely feel that Celox™ products are amongst the best out there and it is a medical tool that we should all have access to.

So, what is it?

Celox™ is a haemostat granule, made from a natural polymer derived from shrimp shells, and is extremely effective. It comes as a packet of granules, in bandage form and also in a syringe.

How does it work?

Celox ™ works by creating a gel like clot when it comes in to contact with blood. It does not generate heat like other haemostats, which makes it safer for the applier to use without risking undesirable injuries, such as burns.

Why do we use it?

Quite simply, we use it because we feel that it is the best product on the market when it comes to stopping catastrophic bleeding when used in conjunction with other equipment, methods and training.

We want to show our learners how impressive it is and how easy it is to use, we encourage them to have Celox™ in their own First Aid kits, both for personal use and in the workplace. We demonstrate it by using a gunshot trauma wound prop, pumped with fake blood. (See picture below)

We use Celox™ in all of our FPOS, FPOSi, Tactical Combat Casualty Care and Tactical Emergency Casualty Care courses when covering catastrophic bleeding, we really do believe that there is no better way to assist in the control of major bleeding.

We strongly feel that all First Aiders should have an awareness of Celox™  and encourage learners to go out and get some for their own First Aid kits, hopefully it will never be needed, but if it is, we can guarantee that there will be nothing better to use for the situation.

Additional Information

Obviously, we are merely advocates of the Celox™ product, we are not being asked to promote it in any way shape or form, this is a genuine, honest testimonial.

If you want any more information on Celox™ , there is of course no better place to go than to their official website, where it expands on what we have told you about Celox™ immensely. If you are interested and you have some questions about Celox™ , the chances are that they will be answered on their website:


If you want to see Celox™ in action, or if you would like to take part in a First Aid course that utilises Celox™ and prepares you to use it in life saving situations, feel free to get in touch with us and we would be more than happy to cater to your needs through one of our courses at Robert Peel International.

Do I need First Aid training if I’m working abroad?

The answer, is that everyone, irrespective of where they live and work, needs first aid training and knowledge.

People die from preventable injuries.  In other words, death because of bleeding caused by injuries which someone with the correct training and a small amount of experience could manage.  The person with this knowledge could include the victim himself/herself, as there is nothing stopping self-help, except a positive mind set.

The fact that people are living and working in a foreign country is particularly relevant.  Sometimes the environment itself may not be as permissive as it is in Western Europe or the US, for example.  Environments of extreme heat or cold can have unusual effects on someone’s health and wellbeing, which can consequently affect decision-making. If you add in any injury to this environment, then complications will soon multiply and compound any situation.

At the same time, cultural and language barriers may also have a significant detrimental effect.   Medical facilities may be more rudimentary in certain parts of the world which are usually associated with international development and security tasks. All this adds up and become component parts of a hostile environment.

Survivability is dependent just as much, if not more, on what happens in the first 2 to 3 minutes following an injury, as it is on the 3 to 4 hours of surgery in a modern operating theatre.  In fact, without that initial intervention and treatment the surgery will not happen or even be necessary, because the patient will be lost. Therefore, a decent grasp of basic first aid principles and self-help is important to the overseas operators, as it may be the difference between life and death.

Soldiers on a modern battlefield are trained and expected to administer self-help as soon as they can, in a large number of cases this is what saved them.  Casualties are able, in horrific circumstances, to administer and receive life saving first aid, which is enough to stabilise them before any medic, or doctor is able to attend to them.  This is especially important if you are in a hostile or none permissive environment, as there is no guarantee you will get to a suitable medical facility quickly.

First Person on the Scene (FPOS) training is the industry standard for people who are responsible for protection of personal and premises abroad.  But what would happen if these operators become casualties themselves? Or if they are otherwise engaged dealing with a live incident whilst you or someone close to you requires lifesaving treatment?

There are many locations where an ambulance just won’t come, does not exist, or is unavailable for a whole raft of reasons.  Ambulance staff, if they do attend, may be there just to transport casualties to hospital, A&E or am emergency room.  They are not trained to deal with casualties at scene in a pre-hospital environment as paramedics are in the developed world.

The question therefore, is not: Do I need first aid training? The question should be: What level of first aid training am I comfortable with?  An assessment of risk and exposure to injury and trauma of yourself and your co-workers is what you should be aiming for, so that you understand what you are getting in to.  The longer you spend in any hazardous or challenging environment, the higher the chances of being involved in an incident.

So, whilst carrying out a short task in, for example, Southern Europe for two weeks, you may well be content with Basic First Aid at Work level of training and qualification, for yourself and any staff you may be responsible for.

However, if you find yourself in an environment which has seen a lot of conflict or instability and perhaps a degree of terrorist activity, you may want to consider something more suited to managing the types of injuries associated with such incidents.  Training and qualifications which will equip you and your colleagues to successfully manage trauma effectively such as FPOS, or in extreme circumstances, Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC).

This doesn’t just apply to injuries that are caused by the actions in the conflict zone and by terror attacks.  The same types of injuries can be caused by road traffic and industrial accidents.  The same mechanism of blast, direct and indirect trauma is the cause of injuries and they can be just as catastrophic.

With the right level of experienced trainers with the correct equipment and knowledge. Learning skills like this can become second nature, so that you can react instinctively when and if the situation arises and keep, you, your friends, colleagues and your family alive.

Correct training will save lives in situations which result in catastrophic blood loss.  Accidents in the home, on the roads, in work or just going about the day to day business of living can have exactly the same effect on the human body as guns, knives and explosives.

Catastrophic bleeding occurs when an artery or major blood vessel is cut.  The average home or workplace are full of objects and machines which can achieve this, yet the average home or workplace first aid kit is ill-equipped to deal with such trauma.

Again, a surprisingly little amount of specialist equipment is required.  Simple pressure techniques, proper bandages and some clotting agents are all that is needed.

Consideration should also be given by the employers of people who are asked or required to enter hostile or unstable environments.  Employers have a duty of care, which is not easily discharged, by simply having the correct level of insurance in place.  I personally have heard it said that “everything will be handled because the insurance cover will be able to sort a casualty evacuation”. But what if the nearest airport can’t operate at night? Or in foul weather conditions? Or what if you and your co-workers are so far out that simply getting medical staff in and casualties out is a matter of hours? What then?

The cost of such training and skill can be obtained for less than you would think, and it could prevent you or someone you live and work with becoming a victim of violence or accident caused by any mechanism or action.  Ultimately, the right knowledge could even save yourself.

Yes, overseas workers need to have first aid training.