Quest Magazine - Home

Independent resettlement & recruitment guide for serving Armed Forces & Veterans

Study reveals need for enhanced life skills support for young & lower-ranked service personnel

Study reveals need for enhanced life skills support for young & lower-ranked service personnel


23 Nov, 2023

A new report from QinetiQ and Cranfield School of Management found that, whilst the majority of Service personnel and their partners have good life skills, some require additional support to help them develop the skills needed to deal with the demands and challenges of daily life when they leave the Armed Forces.

Service personnel most affected included those lower in rank and younger in age, who have not had the chance to develop their skills, or those who had poor Life Skills on joining.

Life skills

Life skills are a broad set of skills that underpin positive personal, social, and work outcomes. The research, led by Natalie Fisher from QinetiQ and supported by Cranfield School of Management, found that most Service personnel (87.2%) and partners of serving personnel (82.4%) report having good life skills. Fewer serving personnel (51.7%) thought they had good life skills when they first joined the military.

Personnel and families highlighted problem-solving, communication, decision making, critical thinking and planning amongst their strongest life skills. Areas where they felt their skills were weaker included applying for jobs, work-life balance, managing their own learning, networking, and digital/IT skills.

Serving personnel and their families indicated that they would like additional support to develop these skills, as well as assistance with mental wellbeing and help with the emotional adjustment to civilian life.

Impact on transition

The research found that there is a small number of Armed Forces personnel that are more affected by poor life skills when transitioning to civilian life. Research on negative transitions has shown that weaker life skills are common amongst those who struggle to adapt to civilian life, including those in the criminal justice system and homeless veterans.

Many of those who thought they had poor life skills had not developed positive life skills before joining the Armed Forces, and had not gone on to develop their skills whilst serving. Some indicated that they felt this was due to the Armed Forces lifestyle, including the impact of frequent mobility and a lack of independence.

Improving support for Armed Forces personnel and families

Whilst there is significant support available for Service personnel and their families when they leave the Armed Forces, there are currently gaps in the provision for life skills development and the support available is not always reaching those in most need.

The report makes a number of recommendations for improving life skills in the Armed Forces, and aiding individuals transition to civilian life. These include:

  • The MOD adopting a single definition of life skills to understand what life skills are and what they comprise.
  • More explicit instruction, beyond signposting to resources, for those most in need of life skills support. For these individuals, life skills support may need to take a more practical or classroom-based approach, as they are the most in need of extra support, but also the least likely to ask for help.
  • The adoption of a risk-based model to understand who is most likely to need life skills support and to direct that support effectively.

You can read the full report and short summary infographic here. (Available from 09:00 on 23rd November)

Research Lead Natalie Fisher from QinetiQ said

“Whilst there are clearly groups more in need of Life Skills support than others, the findings indicate a strong desire from many to receive support to develop their Life Skills. What is needed/wanted varies widely, indicating that a ‘one size fits all’ solution is not the answer. The findings also point to a difference between the Life Skills that are important whilst serving compared with leaving. The data show that the Life Skills personnel rated as their top five skills bear little resemblance to those they consider to be most important for transition. This would suggest a disconnect between the Life Skills that are both developed and perceived as important by personnel whilst serving and those needed outside this environment, the indication being that some Life Skills take on greater importance outside Defence.”

Helen Helliwell Director Armed Forces People Policy at the Ministry of Defence said

“The overwhelming majority of service leavers benefit from their time in service and transition back into civilian life well. This report usefully highlights some of the life skills programmes that exist in social enterprises, charities and the private sector aimed at improving lives, and we will use the findings to further improve that transition back in to civilian society from the Armed Forces”

Michelle Alston Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust said

“Having a strong set of life skills is crucial to ensuring that Service leavers and their families make a successful transition into civilian life. It is therefore positive to hear that there is not a significant deficit of these skills in the Armed Forces, reflecting the fact that most Service leavers make a successful transition. However, some struggle with life skills, and it is these who are often the most vulnerable and require more tailored and hands on support.

For others, more help is required on how to apply the skills they’ve gained in service to civilian life. The report helpfully sets out a series of recommendations to improve life skills throughout an individual’s Service career, and offers insights from existing life skills programmes outside of Defence that could be used to further improve the support avaliable. If the current momentum on life skills can be maintained we can ensure that every veteran is given the best possible preparation for their transition to civllian life.”