The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award – apprenticeships done differently

Recognising the benefits of achieving your DofE for personal and career development has seen several businesses in the UK integrating the DofE into their apprenticeship programmes. The DofE is supported by UK employers including Balfour Beatty, Amey, St James’s Place, Tarmac, British Gas, Skanska, DFS, Heathrow and RSM who all endorse the skills and attributes developed whilst doing a DofE programme such as resilience, commitment, self-motivation and team working.

‘DofE Business’ gives apprentices the opportunity to develop their confidence, their ability to work as a team and lead their peers. It gives employers the chance to support and reward young people at the beginning of their careers. At the core of DofE Business partnerships lies a vital motivating factor, that personal development, running alongside technical training, benefits both the employers and the apprentices. Achieving a DofE Award is testament to a young person’s commitment, and in return it’s a personal investment. A young person is required to learn a new skill, dedicate their spare time to volunteer in their communities, take up a physical activity, as well as go on an expedition and participate in a residential; and this is no mean feat. In the process, they’re developing themselves and enhancing their job prospects.

British Gas was the first UK company to introduce the DofE into its apprenticeship engineering training programme back in 2006. British Gas believes that the DofE helps young employees develop essential communication and people skills needed to provide excellent customer service as well as build their confidence and improve their mental and physical wellbeing. Since 2006, over 2,300 British Gas apprentices have embarked on their Gold Award. After running the programme for over a decade, there are tangible benefits for the business. Internal research found that British Gas employees who have achieved their Gold Award had fewer complaints and more customer referrals. Matthew Bateman, Managing Director of UK Field Operations at British Gas believes the time apprentices invest in volunteering as part of a DofE programme is crucial: “Time spent in the community helps our new recruits relate to customers and their lives – something vitally important in a customer focussed business like ours.”

Consulting and infrastructure support services company Amey has run a Gold Award programme alongside their apprenticeship scheme since 2010. Working to break the cycle of deprivation and employ people from all backgrounds, including candidates with less experience or formal training, Amey launched a strategic partnership with the DofE specifically to support disadvantaged young people in the community. Andy Miller, CEO of Amey sees the real impact the DofE has on their apprentices: “Our young people are encouraged to push themselves outside of their comfort zone when doing their DofE and the skills that they develop can be life-changing.”

It is encouraging to see that some of the UK’s biggest companies are acknowledging the need for wider personal development of apprentices and are willing to invest in young people developing their soft skills to become more rounded individuals. In our constantly changing world, giving young people a chance to gain transferable skills will become increasingly important and programmes such as DofE Business are needed now more than ever.