Partnering with the DofE Award to support young people

'My experience of completing the DofE Award' Fran Hawes, Materials Recycling Facility Operations Manager

I started my journey at Amey by first volunteering in the Education Centre at the Amey waste treatment plant in Cambridge. This involved taking school groups around the site to teach them about how we manage waste and how they can be amazing Re-users and Recyclers! I had an idea that I wanted to work in waste but volunteering in the education centre helped affirm this...

Whilst volunteering, an opportunity came up for an apprentice role which I applied for and was successful.

It was during my apprenticeship that I was offered the opportunity to complete the Gold DofE Award. This award was made of key sections; Business skills, Physical, Volunteering and Expedition.

Each element gave me a variety of experiences and developed different skills.

  • Business skills: this section gave me some key techniques to manage time, workload, projects. We learnt about the importance of authenticity and personal branding. It was also an opportunity to see Head Office and get a feel for the corporate journey I was about to embark on.
  • Physical: I started netball with my sister and mum for our local village team, 7 years on and we are all still playing for Willingham Diamonds. Being part of netball enhances my personal life hugely; it brings me into a strong community of amazing women, it keeps me moving and is an effective stress reliever at the end of a long day. Having gumption, tenacity and a competitive streak combined with passion and drive for a certain project, topic or task elevates you from being a team player to a team leader. Netball absolutely brings these attributes out in me and I can apply them in my professional role.
  • Volunteering: Being a girl guide when I was younger brought me so much joy and adventure, so for my volunteering I wanted to ensure that the local teenagers had the same opportunities. I set up a Senior section unit for 8 girls with the help of my best friend. For me, this element of the Award was by far the most rewarding and challenging. It taught me how to manage a budget, albeit on a small scale, build rapport with the unit and develop a sense of what my leadership style looked like. I also set programmes of activities, within budget and over a long period of time, which developed my project management skills.
  • Expedition: I loved every minute of this section. I was able to home in on my planning skills. It involved setting complex walking routes and planning food rations amongst other things. I had to think logically about what was best for the team, e.g. who takes what, how we spread the weight of our equipment, what did we want to achieve together etc. It also made me realise that I am a natural motivator. When we crossed the finish line, together, at the same time, that was a highlight.

The Award Ceremony at Buckingham Palace was an incredible experience – I took my Nanna Pearl with me who enjoyed every minute. It was the jewel in the crown and even this part of the DofE taught me that success and achievement is hard earned but must be enjoyed.

To reflect on your experiences and achievements is an important thing and to make time to do this every so often is important in enabling you to continue with your head held high and to move on to bigger mountains.

Since completing the DofE, I have experienced many roles within the waste treatment division of Amey. Within 7 years, I have developed a deeper understanding of myself and the communities in which I work and live. Currently, I am Operations Manager of the Materials Recovery Facility in Cambridgeshire. In this role I am responsible for overseeing the safe, efficient and reliable processing of 1,500 – 2,000 tonnes of Cambridgeshire’s recycling each week, managing an annual P&L of £8m and serving a team of 80 workers through honest, professional and authentic leadership, overcoming operational difficulties and thinking ahead to achieve the long-term vision. I am so proud to be serving my local area in this way and I am thankful for the ways that Amey has supported me to propel me to this point in my career