Electricity firm worker from Crawley proves a shining light by achieving a Duke of Edinburgh gold award

Darbie Hughes holding her DoE pin badge
Darbie Hughes holding her DoE pin badge

UK Power Networks worker Darbie Hughes proved a shining light by achieving a Duke of Edinburgh gold award.

The 22-year-old took on the challenge while she was an apprentice and spent five days hiking 50 kilometres through Snowdonia in north Wales.

UK Power Networks DofE Gold recipients with, bottom row second from left, Andrew Platt, technical trainer, Andrew Pace, HR director, Nigel Grapes, engineering trainees team leader, and Dudley Sparks, head of technical training at UK Power Networks.

UK Power Networks DofE Gold recipients with, bottom row second from left, Andrew Platt, technical trainer, Andrew Pace, HR director, Nigel Grapes, engineering trainees team leader, and Dudley Sparks, head of technical training at UK Power Networks.

To achieve her gold award, Darbie was part of a group that walked 792 miles for their expedition training, volunteered 360 hours, spent more than 1,000 hours on physical activities, 13,500 hours learning new skills and more than 1,000 hours were spent on residential activities.

Darbie and the group recently travelled to St James's Palace to receive their award from HRH The Earl of Wessex.

Electricity apprentices at UK Power Networks all have the chance to complete a Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme during their training. This develops the teamwork, resilience and energy needed in their working life.

Training expeditions at Dartmoor and Exmoor were followed by the final expedition when she spent five days hiking through Snowdonia.

Darbie said: “Hiking isn’t something I had done before and our practice expedition taught me a lot about myself. I learned how determined I can be if I put my mind to something. I didn’t think I would make it to the end at times but I pushed through it.

“Although I knew I would be walking eight hours a day in all weathers with a heavy backpack you can’t understand what that is like until you do it. We were advised to prepare and make sure we had good boots but I didn’t take on the advice and instantly regretted it.

“My boots were falling to bits and that first expedition was hard, but there was a lot of team-building and I enjoyed it. On the last day I produced a packet of chocolates from my pocket and everyone said it felt like they had been given a million pounds!”

For voluntary work Darbie provided regular childcare for a mum who needed some extra support and took up cycling for her physical activity, a sport she still enjoys.

Darbie said: “It’s an incredible feeling to have completed my Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. It’s an impressive achievement, especially when you know how hard we worked for it.”

Caroline Glen, director of fundraising at The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, said: “In an ever-changing world, supporting young people to enhance their skills is important for a prosperous future. The Gold Award is the highest level of DofE programme that can be completed and Darbie should be proud of her achievement.

"During her journey, she has shown strong commitment and energy in exploring new skills, challenges and opportunities to enhance her knowledge and abilities.”

Darbie joined the company’s apprenticeship scheme in 2016 and earlier this year she became a fully qualified electrical fitter, installing, maintaining and repairing substation equipment.

The group has also received apprenticeship certificates from Andrew Pace, UK Power Networks’ director of HR. Andrew said: “Congratulations to our apprentices on successfully completing their electricity apprenticeships and achieving their Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards.

“The DofE develops the positive characteristics we look for in our employees such as teamwork, responsibility and resilience. That’s why we joined forces with the charity three years ago, to give our young apprentices the best start to their careers with us.”