The Duke of Edinburgh's Award: Skills and Benefits

With experience of organising DofE expeditions from the UK to Tanzania, David Mellor; teacher, family blogger, and Ordnance Survey Champion, tells us about the skills and benefits of achieving the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

Doing the DofE programme is one of those things that, in my opinion, all children should experience. As a secondary school teacher and outdoor enthusiast, I’ve been involved in the award in various capacities for many years now and, although I have seen a few minor changes, what hasn’t changed is the amazing wealth of skills and knowledge that young people develop throughout their time completing each of the programme’s sections.

They may well have a whole lot of fun achieving their award, but they also hugely boost their CVs and employability skills in the process. As an English teacher, I fully understand the importance of academic achievement in a modern world that’s more competitive than ever. However, I also fully understand that academic achievements aren’t the be-all-and-end-all in terms of shaping a young person’s life. Nor should they be.

Pupils on an expedition in Tanzania

Life is made up of so many wonderful facets that to limit yourself to academics alone would, in my eyes, be missing the point. Being able to embed clauses and balance equations have their uses, of course, but in terms of preparing young people for the wider world, the DofE programme is simply brilliant. I cannot think of another award programme that compliments academic learning as well!

One of my favourite sections of the award is the Volunteering section. Too many people (never mind young people) are detached from the world outside of their immediate bubble these days. Time, work and school commitments etc. all impinge on our ability to dedicate a portion of our day to helping others, for no tangible reward. Consequently, this section of the DofE Award aims to change that mindset. Young people can choose an area of society that interests them, whether that be the local environment, vulnerable people in need of care, or raising funds for a much-valued local resource.

By engaging with these issues in this manner for a committed period of time, young people develop skills that they carry with them throughout their adult lives. They begin to open their eyes to the world around them; they begin to see how other people live their lives and the impact that we can all have on a range of important matters. Crucially, for them as individuals, in doing all of this they also become more reflective thinkers. Now, anyone who knows anything about learning and employment will realise that this is a skill very much cherished. A lot of young people struggle in the competitive marketplace once they’ve left education because of a perceived lack of experience. The Volunteering section gives young people that leg up that so many more of them wish they’d had.

My other favourite section is the Expedition section. That may come as little surprise as I’ve already declared myself to be an outdoor enthusiast, but it’s what young people learn about themselves and how they are able to transfer that into employability skills that really enthuses me. You see, the vast majority of kids that I have taken through their DofE Award are operating well outside of their comfort zones when they initially approach this section. Very few of them know how to navigate, cook outdoors, perform emergency aid or know what to do in the event of an emergency. Furthermore, very few of them choose to be outside for hours at a time in the pouring rain, which, let’s face it, always happens when expedition season rolls around.

But something magical happens over the weeks and months that lead up to them formally being assessed on expedition. They build skills, friendships, interdependence, and resilience. They develop a ‘never give up’ attitude and support each other when the wind picks up and tiredness kicks in. They stay calm when things go wrong, stop what they’re doing, assess the situation and make informed decisions. They basically form a skillset that employers up and down the land, in every industry that you can think of, crave from their employees.

Teachers, like myself, and employers all over the country understand the importance for young people to push themselves beyond the boundaries of academic achievements alone. Doing a DofE programme enables them to do this. From the CV boost, real-life situations and experiences that they will be able to talk about at interviews, to the memories, laughter and friendships that are formed, there really is nothing like it.

In need of the right gear for your expedition? Check out our recommended kit here.

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Blacks old-timer, Sophie, joined the online team back in 2017 after serving customers in her local Blacks store whilst completing her degree. Voluntary work with The Scouts, Girlguiding and The DofE, means she knows expeditions and outdoor kit like the back of her hand.

Catch Sophie checking out new trails on weekends, and she's always game for a hike, especially if it involves a pub at the end.

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