New report urges 'embrace social intelligence to improve wellbeing of young people'

Research released this week by Kings College London and the UK’s flagship youth programme National Citizen Service, (NCS), recommends that we need to take an active role in developing social intelligence in teenagers.

Defined as the skills and abilities we need to understand and navigate social situations and maintain our relationships – research points to the fact employers are putting more weight on social intelligence than just IQ.

“As we move into a world where technology is replacing many routine tasks, it is increasingly important for us to read subtle social signals and act through careful negotiation and be socially aware,” says Mark Bowman CE of Inspira, the regional provider of National Citizen Service in Lancashire. “There is also evidence to suggest that while Britain’s adolescents form strong group identities, they struggle to diversify their social circle – which is a valuable skill in this ever increasingly globalised world we live in. Consequently we need to build those skills in young people to prepare them for the world of work in the future.”

Authored by Dr Jennifer Lau, researcher specialising in the psychology of adolescent mental health at KCL, the report explores the current levels of ‘social intelligence’ amongst the next generation, raising some key concerns. Most surprisingly, the study shows teenagers today are experiencing higher levels of loneliness than those aged 55+ and as highlighted lacking skills enabling them to interact with people from different backgrounds.

Mark Bowman points to parents, teachers and peers alike to introduce young people to new experiences and opportunities where they can improve their social mobility in order to develop social intelligence.

“The evidence suggests social intelligence, and its associated skill set, such as teamwork, communication and negotiation skills, is now more important in new recruits and career progression than IQ or academic intelligence[i]. They even estimate that salaries of those with high social intelligence levels could be accelerated by 31%,” Mr Bowman continues. “This is why programmes like National Citizen Service are so vital to young people completing their GCSEs– the impact is real, young people are empowered, and importantly they get to have the time of their live learning invaluable skills.”

Ben Wareing, 17, a recent graduate of NCS, says: “The confidence to be myself around other people outside of my school group was something I really struggled with. I was anxious to meet new people and didn’t know what they’d think of me, looking back it was an issue that really held me back. Ever since going on NCS it all changed, and everyone has been able to see the difference. Even though we were all from different backgrounds, our group became really close from the first day of the programme which really helped me realise it’s okay to be yourself and having different opinions and perspectives can be really helpful.”

He continues: “Working together as a team to create a social action project also helped me discover how to work within a team and manage challenging situations. Since coming back from NCS, I now jump at the chance to speak to new people, I feel confident talking to people from all different backgrounds and I’m much happier in myself. I genuinely think the friends I made on the programme will be friends for life. Having the opportunity to meet so many new people on the programme is something all teenagers should have the opportunity to do.”

NCS widens horizons by helping young people build lasting friendships that bridge social divides and grow their aspirations by developing crucial skills for work and life. The programme takes place across Lancashire this summer and is open to all 15-17 year olds for no more than £50.

Ends

Interviews and further information are available on request – contact Claire Benson for more information.

Notes to editors

National Citizen Service (NCS) is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity open to 15-17 year olds across England and Northern Ireland.

It is a unique two or three week full-time programme focused around fun and discovery, plus up to 60 hours committed to a community project that benefits both young people and society. On this government backed programme, participants build skills for work and life, while taking on new challenges and adventures, making new friends, and contributing to their community.

Government backing means that it costs just £50 or less to take part in NCS and bursaries are available on a case by case basis. Support is provided for young people with additional needs.

NCS represents great value for money for parents as participants spend up to two weeks away from home with all meals and activities covered. The first week is spent at an outward bound facility participating in activities such as abseiling, water rafting and canoeing. The second week teens live away from home, typically at local university halls of residence, learning how to be self-sufficient, developing new skills and finding out more about the needs of their local community.

Taking place outside school/term time, teens can sign up for the part-residential experience and participate in either the spring, summer or autumn programmes. In every programme they will experience four sections that focus on personal and social development including leadership, teamwork and communication skills. Not only do 16 and 17 year olds have the chance to give something back, but it also looks great on CVs and helps with job, college and university applications, building future aspirations. UCAS recommends referencing NCS on personal statements and taking part is a sought after addition to any CV.

In 2013, NCS Trust, an independent social enterprise, was established to manage NCS and execute the ambitious expansion of the government backed programme.

[i] 60% think social intelligence is more important than IQ, a third (33%) even think IQ is becoming irrelevant