Page last updated at 11:24 GMT, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Model aim of modern major general

Maj Gen David McDowall - Ministry of Defence image
Maj Gen David McDowall is to advise the government on how to remove barriers to people from all backgrounds getting access to top jobs

A soldier from a harbour town in south west Scotland is to advise the UK Government on social mobility.

Maj Gen David McDowall MBE grew up in a council house in Stranraer and started his military career as a private with the Royal Signals.

He will represent the armed forces on a panel set up to help remove obstacles to accessing professional jobs.

Gen McDowall said that he hoped he could help to "find solutions" to any barriers discovered by the group.

If barriers are found I will help to find solutions to address these barriers

Gen David McDowall

The government has set out a raft of measures in its New Opportunities white paper on social mobility.

It includes a 10,000 "golden handcuffs" payment to the best teachers prepared to work at the worst-performing secondary schools.

The 54-year-old soldier who will advise the government is a unique example of rising through the army.

When he reached his current rank he became the only major general in the British Army to begin his career at its lowest level.

Following his childhood in Stranraer he joined the Royal Signals as a private soldier, serving for six years in the ranks.

After being commissioned and completing officer training at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst he rose up the ranks to become major general.

Maj Gen David McDowall - Ministry of Defence image
Gen McDowall said there had been no obstacles to his own career
During his career he commanded a squadron in Northern Ireland and a regiment in the Balkans.

He assumed command of the army's UK 2nd Division - which covers Scotland, the north of England, and Northern Ireland - in early 2007.

He is also governor of Edinburgh Castle where he has an official residence.

Gen McDowall said he had never faced any obstacles to his progress in the army.

He said: "I was developed as an individual and I was given the opportunity to develop my leadership.

"There is a wonderful framework that the armed forces provide for developing leadership and my experience has been one of a meritocracy."

He said his upbringing had never been an issue.

Help journey

"I come from a working class background - a council house and state schools," he said.

"Crucially at no time have I ever felt there was some sort of barrier beyond which I felt I would not be able to go.

"You are judged entirely on the talents that you demonstrate."

He said that was an experience he hoped to share with the government.

"We can and should be helping people to see a pathway and we should support them through a journey that allows them to become contributors rather than to feel they are being held back," he said.

"If barriers are found I will help to find solutions to address these barriers."

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