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The Benefits of Service Life on Young People: Why school leavers should join the Armed Forces

What was the last decision you made that changed your life?  There are many options available to young people but few that offer the constructive and fulfilling lifestyle a career in the Armed Forces can.  The Armed Forces can transform a person who is potentially underachieving and lacking self confidence into a competent, qualified, productive member of society.  A career in the Armed Forces can gain you qualifications up to Masters level, it can help you develop your self confidence, and it can help you build friendships that will last a lifetime.  Personally, service life has severely boosted my self-esteem and revitalised my passion for learning that I had lost nearing the end of my school years.

Arguably one of the more important benefits is the effect service life can have on your education.  Almost 1 in every 5 (18%) students in the UK leave school at 16 as underachievers; this removes a significant amount of jobs and education opportunities.  Leaving school as an underachiever can lead to difficulty getting a job that pays more than minimum wage and attaining any qualifications at college or university level.  Lacking basic level 2 (GCSE) qualifications also limits an individual’s eligibility for things like apprenticeships.  Many young people experience education burnout near the end of their time in school, which discourages them to continue pursuing opportunities to develop and lean and instead turns them to leaving education and trying to find work.  I experienced this myself.  This is to be expected given that at the end of Comprehensive/High School learners have already been in education for 11 years.  It should be expected that students will want and need a change of pace.

The Armed Forces offer school leavers the chance to gain the qualifications they missed out on and to recover from any education burnout they may be feeling.  All services and roles within the Armed Forces give service personnel the chance to achieve Level 2 (GCSE level) qualifications in mathematics and English.  .  Many roles within the services offer qualifications at a higher level (ranging from Level 3 to Bachelors and Masters degrees) in fields relevant to the service person’s job.  While I left school with good GCSE results, I dreaded the idea of remaining in education.  After a few years in the Army, I feel like I have the right mindset to delve back into education as a mature student once I leave the forces.

 Service life can help in more areas that just education.  One of the most well known benefits of service life is the relationship service personnel develop with each other.  Almost everyone in the Armed Forces agrees that they have made ‘friends for life’.  This is a significant and unique benefit of service life that is especially beneficial for young people; according to a nationwide survey conducted by the BBC, 40% of 16 to 24 year-olds reported feeling lonely often or very often.

Similarly to the way service life can help young people develop relationships it can also help those who struggle immensely with their confidence and self-esteem.  According to The Prince’s Trust over half (54%) of 16 to 25 year-olds believe a lack of self-confidence holds them back.  The Armed Forces do an amazing job of developing service people’s confidence and self-esteem.  The newest Army adverts launched in 2020 use the slogan “Army confidence lasts a lifetime.” In the years I’ve been in the Army both myself and my family have noticed a massive increase in my self confidence.  Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, was quoted in a Forces News article, saying: “I know from my own experience the confidence, self-belief and camaraderie a career in the armed forces can offer.”

Furthermore, service provides opportunities for young people to be independent.  According to the Office of National Statistics, 78% of 16 to 20 year-olds live with their parents.  There are many benefits to leaving home and young people in the services have an advantage over other people their age because they are independent and responsible for themselves.  They learn how to feed themselves, how to manage their finances, how to do basic household chores like clean the area they live in and clean their clothes.  Young service personnel can also take advantage of schemes such as Armed Forces Help to Buy – which allows soldiers to borrow up to half their salary, interest free, to use as a deposit – will make it a lot easier to get onto the property ladder earlier than most people their age.

The Armed Forces can have an amazing effect on the life of a young person.  It can bolster their confidence and self-esteem and set them up for life.  It can teach them valuable inter-personal soft skills which they will utilise in every job they have after leaving the service.  I would wholeheartedly recommend a career – short or long – in the Armed Forces to all young people and school leavers.


Levi is a young private soldier who joined the Infantry at 17 years old after struggling to motivate himself to continue in education.

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