Support young employees to future-proof your business

Photography by Fergus Burnett

When you’re recruiting for your organisation, what do you look for? Academic qualifications? Technical know-how? Personal qualities? Whatever sector you’re in, so-called ‘soft skills’, such as communication, teamwork and leadership, are no doubt high on your list of requirements.

In a survey of more than 500 senior managers that we conducted in 2017, we found that 95% of employers regarded soft skills as equally or more important than academic achievements alone and 9 in 10 said young people with strong soft skills often progress faster in the workplace.

In addition, LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends Report 2019 described what organisations need from their employees – “…not only their technical skills but also their ability to think creatively, collaborate effectively and adapt quickly”. 80% of talent professionals interviewed by LinkedIn agreed that soft skills are increasingly important to company success.

Imagine if you could fill your workplace with more confident, well-rounded people who know how to work in a team, solve problems and manage their time. This is where The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) comes in. In return for a donation to the DofE charity, we help businesses across the UK to integrate the DofE into their development programmes and unlock the potential of younger employees. We give them a safe space in which they gain vital skills in the early stages of their career which, in turn, supports businesses in achieving organisational goals.

As a sample of businesses running the DofE, Royal Mail Group runs the Gold DofE Award alongside its in-house engineer apprenticeship programme; young apprentices at furniture retailer DFS are invited to take part in the DofE; more than 500 apprentices at infrastructure support services provider Amey, have achieved their Gold DofE Award; and RSM, a provider of audit, tax and consulting services, offers the Gold DofE to its young school leaver apprentices and graduates.

In 2018, 85% of DofE Award holders who took part in our impact survey said doing the DofE helped them to develop teamwork skills and 70% told us it boosted their leadership skills. 89% of DofE Leaders and Managers said the DofE helped young people to develop their communication skills and 82% agreed that DofE participants learn how to look for solutions to problems.

For me, the most striking thing about the DofE for businesses is how it creates real behavioural change. This isn’t just a short training session or a one-off volunteering opportunity – it’s a tailored 18-month programme that gives young people the right experiences and opportunities to progress within your organisation. One Award holder recently described doing her DofE through her employer as “an unforgettable experience”. As a DofE Champion, she is now supporting the next wave of young people as they shape their future careers.

Whilst it’s impossible to predict what the next few years look like for the UK economy, employers will always need confident and resilient employees to help drive success.

With an unparalleled footprint across the country, the DofE offers you a toolkit you can tailor to increase employee retention, support diversity, improve employee wellbeing, reduce skills gaps and gain other operational advantages. It can also help you to bring your company purpose and values to life as you build up a cohort of motivated young people who volunteer in the communities you serve. The DofE Award is a kitemark of achievement, not just for the young people who take part but for the organisations that support it.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how the DofE can help your organisation visit

The Gold Award offers our young people the chance to connect with their community, make new friends, nurture their own mental and physical wellbeing and learn new skills, such as self-confidence, resilience, leadership communications and teamwork – enhancing the overall company culture and boosting morale. Volunteering gives our apprentices the opportunity to develop their social skills, helping them to build an invaluable and well-rounded skillset to be successful in life and work, whilst providing them with a real sense of purpose.

Tracy Fairhurst Head of Apprenticeships, Royal Mail Group

Here at DFS, we know that young people with a DofE Award will benefit massively from the activities they will be involved in and we know it helps strengthen their skills and abilities to apply themselves to different situations. Since we launched the DofE in 2014, we’ve seen for ourselves the positive effect of the DofE. It builds confidence and self-belief, initiative and a sense of responsibility, and leadership and teamworking skills – all of which are key attributes that fit with our values and will help strengthen our business for the future.

Jill Wingfield Head of Learning and Development, DFS

Together with the DofE, Amey has been supporting communities across the UK for the last 17 years.

Taking part in the DofE is a life-changing experience for young people who are marginalised or at risk. By taking responsibility for their own progress through the DofE’s structured activities, they discover their ability to overcome challenges, manage their own lives and help others. These experiences boost their self-esteem and confidence, help them to climb out of poverty, gain positive experiences and build the skills, behaviours and attitudes needed for a new and different life.

Emily Davies, Head of Social Impact, Amey

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