The DoE scheme involved 11,000 young people in Wales last year, but the aim is to increase it by 5,000 by 2020.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, which this year is celebrating its 60th anniversary, provides the future employees that companies need to succeed, the Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward, told a business audience.
Speaking at a meeting of Cardiff Breakfast Club, Prince Edward, who is a trustee of the now global awards initiative set up in 1956 by his father the Duke of Edinburgh, said it helps to build resilience, confidence and team working skills in those undertaking the award’s bronze to gold levels.
And he said it provided support and mentoring to young people – aged from 14 to 25 – regardless of backgrounds or ethnicity, to develop the type of skills that businesses needed.
Prince Edward said: “For me, the number one goal of the DoE is how do we open this to any and every young person. That has been the continual goal.
“Any young person can do the award, giving the right guidance, mentorship and inspiration.”
He added: “And, for me, one of the greatest thrills is when special needs schools get involved. So often the adults who are working with those young people, I find, say time and time again ‘oh no, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is not for our children’.
“But when you ask them at the end, they say it was amazing and they achieved so much. And that is the bit that gets me in seeing how these young people can develop and grow and prove what is possible as opposed to what is not possible. So it is about what you can do, and not what you can’t do.”
Last year around 11,000 people in Wales were involved in various levels of the DoE Award. However, by 2020 the aim is to increase the number by a further 5,000.
The award now operates in 140 countries globally.
Prince Edward said: “There are currently one million young people striving to do their bronze, silver and gold award and that is way beyond the English speaking world.
“This is a very common activity amongst all sorts of young people and across every different type of culture. And the reason it works, is that we say to young people, ‘right you are going to have to learn a skill, so what do you want to do? You are going to have to do some volunteering, so what type and who less fortunate than yourself do you want to help?’
“And, at the end of it, the other little bit that we do, is provide a certificate. And over the last 60 years that certificate has become the most important thing as it qualifies and quantifies what these young people have done.”
Directly addressing the business audience as employers, he said: “You want to know where your future employees are going to come from and how to identify the ones that are going to make a difference in your business.
“So look at what the DoE says about that person. It will say four or five things [various levels] that you can talk about, otherwise I defy you to have a meaningful conversation with a young person about academic qualifications that lasts no more than about 20 seconds… it is a tick in a box.
“If you see they have a DoE, that’s five questions you can ask them and that is when you find out what makes a young person tick.
“That is when you find out what their passion is, what difference they have made to other people’s lives and what team work and confidence skills they have developed.”
He said that life throws up challenges and opportunities.
Prince Edward added: “Who has the confidence to step through that door when it opens unexpectedly? If you have done the DoE, they are the sort of people that will do it.”
Outlining two key messages for the audience to take away he said: “When looking for future employees, look at the DoE and see how that matches.
“Secondly, have a look in your company and see if there are people who have certificates and go and ask them what difference the award made to their lives and how it has helped them in their business careers so far, and maybe what they can do for you in the future.
“And, together, I hope you will discover that investing in the DoE is investing in our future human capital.”
Cardiff Breakfast Club is sponsored by Lloyds Banking Group, the Western Mail, Stills, Effective Communication and Blake Morgan.
Credit: Sion Barry, Wales Online