Blog 19 January 2021

An employer perspective: Mental health and the DofE

Alongside schools, youth groups and other organisations, a number of renowned businesses offer The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) to their young employees. Doing the DofE helps young people develop skills including confidence, resilience and teamwork, which are all valuable attributes for the working world.

Caroline Gascoigne, National Qualifications Manager at DFS, shares her thoughts about the impact the DofE has on young people’s mental health. As a DofE Leader for over 6 years, Caroline sees the positive impact first-hand.

How do you think doing the DofE helps young people with their mental wellbeing?

The DofE gives young people something to focus on, especially during these times of uncertainty. Over the years DFS has given its apprentices the opportunity to do their DofE and we’ve seen their self-confidence really grow. It shows them that they can achieve anything they set their mind to.

By doing their DofE, young people develop the confidence they need to start to push themselves out of their normal comfort zones. They might initially need encouragement to achieve their DofE but, when they do, their confidence and mental resilience really grows and gives them so much self-worth.

In particular, how is doing the DofE during the pandemic helping?

Some of our young people have been notable affected by recent lockdowns, especially the first one, as they dealt with different thoughts and feelings, and had periods of feeling low and lost.

Doing their DofE With A Difference has given our young people something to focus on during the pandemic, helping them concentrate and to feel some kind of normality.

Have there been any standout stories for you that show the positive mental health impact of the DofE?

One of our apprentices walked off during his first expedition, refusing to complete it as he couldn’t emotionally cope with the challenge. He shared with us later that he was struggling with mental health issues. We guided him to professional help and the following year he returned to doing his DofE. He found the focus and enjoyment of doing the activities helpful, and was a great leader for his group, encouraging others to keep going and achieve their own DofE.

Another, Joseph, shared with me that doing his DofE helped him connect with others and deal with difficult situations: “The DofE has improved my mental health. It has helped me remain positive, connect with who people who I am thankful I have met, and develop coping skills to deal with potentially stressful situations in my day-to-day life.”

Joseph on expedition wearing orange backpack

There was also a young lady, who had suffered with anorexia and was terrified of doing her DofE as she avoided situations that took her out of her comfort zone. After achieving her Award she started to excel in the workplace and became a much stronger and confident person.

How have you adapted your DofE delivery to help young people continue with their #DofEWithaDifference?

We have helped our young people think of alternative ways to complete the different aspects, such as changing volunteering activities and physical activities to ones they can do from safely at home or at work. We have found that, during this time, they feel much stronger about their activities, particularly volunteering.

What would you say to someone thinking about starting the DofE in their organisation?

Young people may need initial encouragement but once they start their DofE, you’ll see them grow in confidence and resilience, which is so worthwhile.

Modern technology today brings so many great things but it has also taken away many skills-building opportunities for young people, such as how to communicate in person, patience and resilience. Achieving the DofE helps to add these into a young person’s skillset and builds on the academic attributes gained in education.

Take a look at DofE With A Difference for ideas and advice on how you can support young people to keep doing their DofE during the coronavirus outbreak.  

We believe in achievement for all – and we’re determined that young people shouldn’t miss out on doing their DofE at this time. So, we’re introducing The 2020 DofE Certificate of Achievement – to recognise participants who’ve completed their Physical, Skills and Volunteering sections, but can’t do their expedition right now – as well as temporary expedition changes to help young people do their expedition when it’s safe to do so. 

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