If you started your DofE Skills course a while ago...here's 3 tips to help you along

If you signed up to our course a while back and haven’t yet finsished, don’t despair.

It doesn’t matter when you started your DofE Skills course, or whether it’s for your Bronze DofE or your Silver DofE - all that matters is that you finish it! If you have taken a break because life got in the way of all those extra curricular activities then here’s some tips to get you back on track.

  1. Schedule some time to read through what you have completed already, it will put you in the right frame of mind.

  2. Don’t despair if your products don’t look like everyone elses. One of the main positives about the DofE award is that it is yours alone - you work hard to achieve it and should never compare yourself to others. Soaps and bath bombs come in all shapes, sizes and colours. Some people have a creative flair, some don’t. The products still work exactly the same!

  3. If you are struggling to find time to fit everything in - schedule an hour the week after next. There is no immediate need to make something. If you have lots of homework or activities, try to find a day where you have very little. If you find a whole weekend free, schedule in to do a couple of hours. The benefit of our course is that it is completely flexible and you get to choose when to do it.

If you really find you are stuck with something - get in touch. We will always do our best to help anyone looking for support. Sometimes it can be overwheling with so much to juggle outside of school - but just take a step back. Your DofE award will look fantastic on your CV - you may not appreciate now, but believe us, it really will!

How to use your DofE skills in interviews - part II

Your DofE award gives you a wealth of experience which can be used in interviews, to great effect. You may not have thought about it yet, but at some stage soon you will find yourself being interviewed – whether it be for a Saturday or part time job, 6th form college, university or something else. Our last blog post provided a worked example of how you can use the experience of completing our DofE skills course to answer questions. These questions tend to be called ‘Behavioural competency’ questions, but don’t worry too much about the name. They are essentially just questions which need answering.

Don’t forget, our previous blog post provided information about the STAR technique of answering questions. This applies here too! In order to give you an idea about how to approach this and use your DofE experience, the following scenario is fictitious, but you can adapt it with your own experiences. Remember, the person interviewing you may not know much about the DofE so it is a good idea to give a very brief description of what each section involved!

One common question which comes up in most interviews is along the lines of;

Give an example of a time when you have had multiple tasks to work on. How did you prioritise what needed to be done? How did you organise yourself to complete all tasks?

The following would be a good answer (and I say this having interviewed many people over a number of years!)

When I completed my Bronze DofE award, I had four sections which needed to be completed within nine months, and as I was also at school, I needed to ensure I was able manage my time so that everything was done. I had to do 12 weeks each for the volunteering and the skills sections and six months for my physical section.  I volunteered at Parkrun for 12 weeks, helping set up and marshal the running course, I completed a bath bomb and soap making course to learn a new skill and I did athletics training for six months for the physical aspect. In addition to these, I had to complete an expedition which required training beforehand. (you have just described the SITUATION)

I planned how I would complete each of the tasks by prioritising them according to how long I would need to complete them. I always ensured I had a written schedule and revised it if things didn’t go to plan, so that I would still complete within the timescales I had set (you have just described the TASK)

The athletics training was the longest part, so I started to record attendance as soon as I started the DofE award, I then made sure I attended each week (even when the weather was bad) as if there had been any weeks where I could not attend it would impact on how soon I could complete it. The volunteering with Parkrun was at weekends, so this was easy to plan as it didn’t interfere with other activities. The bath bomb course was online and completed at home, so I was able to do this around other commitments such as homework and athletics. The expedition was organised by school, so this didn’t require prioritisation as the dates were fixed. (You have just described the ACTION)

I completed my DofE award within nine months, although the volunteering and skills sections were done over a slightly longer period than I anticipated because of schools exams, but because I had planned and re-evaluated my schedule, they were still within the required timeframe (you have just described RESULT) .

You do not have to use your DofE experience, but for a question like this it provides really good evidence about how you manage priorities. The sections you describe will also give the interviewer information about how you are able to do many different things.

How to use your DofE skills in interviews

You may not yet realise it, but when you complete your DofE award, you acquire skills which can be used in a variety of situations to provide real benefits. This blog post will focus on a scenario which you are likely to face in the near future – interviews. Whether it be for a Saturday or part-time job, an apprenticeship or university application, the interview process is generally the same and achieving your DofE can give you a real advantage over other applicants.

In an interview you will generally be asked questions about different scenarios – and will be marked or assessed on both the detail given in your answer and how much the example you provide answers the question asked.

Below is an example of how you can use your DofE work to your advantage – we will post more in the coming weeks. The following question is used regularly by all interviewers;

Tell us about a time when you were faced with a problem you had to overcome. What was the problem and how did you overcome it?

Here, the interviewers are looking for something YOU have done yourself, so don’t answer with a team-based example from your expedition. Think about the solo elements of your DofE – so look at Skills, Physical & Volunteering. A great way to give a good answer is to structure it using the STAR method.

S – Situation
T – Task
A – Action
R - Result

If you have completed the Soakster DofE Skills course, think about a recipe which you struggled to master. For example, you may have found that when you made soap, it started to solidify quickly and was difficult to pour. By giving backstory and a good explanation, you can provide an excellent answer at interviews. A good response to the question would be along the lines of;

As part of my Duke of Edinburgh award, I completed a bath bomb & soap making course. I had never done anything like this before, so it was a real challenge to master some of the techniques required to make the products. For example, when I was making soap, the method required the soap base to be melted until it was liquid, before the fragrance and colour are added. However, I found that by the time I had added them, the soap had started to change from a liquid into something more solid and it couldn’t be poured. (you have just described the SITUATION)

I hadn’t appreciated how quickly I needed to work, so I went back over my notes and realised that the process of melting the soap base could be repeated once the fragrance and colour had been added, if the soap had started to solidify. (you have just described the TASK)

I therefore re-melted the soap base until it was a liquid again and poured it into the moulds. (you have just described the ACTION)

The end result was that the soap formed perfectly in the silicone moulds and had a fantastic smooth finish – it looked like a proper soap bar, which would not have happened if I had tried to pour it when it was lumpy. (you have just described the RESULT).

Whilst this may not seem like a detailed example, the interviewers are looking for you to demonstrate you can think about problems in a logical way and find solutions which you are then able to action. They do not necessarily need a 20-minute explanation – if you are able to articulate yourself in a concise way, they will be impressed!

You do not need to specifically use examples from you Soakster course, you could use any situation from volunteering or physical sections, where you have had to overcome a problem. Sometimes it is helpful to have two or three possible answers, then at the interview use the one you are most confident with, or which may tie into other questions asked.

 

 

5 Ways to take excellent photos for your DofE portfolio

If you are taking Duke of Edinburgh Skills course, you will need to take some photos for your DofE portfolio. When you complete your award, you will have a portfolio of evidence from all of the sections - and our course will give you many opportunities to take stunning shots.

You don’t need any expensive equipment to do this, although if you have a camera, you will often get better resolution photos. So here are a few tips to help you get the best results;

  • Bath bombs are VERY photogenic, especially the dual colour ones or any with additions such as floral buds or glitter. Try taking photos of them from an angleto where they look the smoothest.

  • Soaps tend not to look as exciting, but if you have made more than one bar, you can stack them on top of each other. The soap with embeds can look good if you stand them on end or photograph from above.

  • Scrubs and steamers are possibly the least exciting of all the products. For best results, concentrate your photography on the making phase.

Whatever you do, take lots of photos each week and then you will have some stunning shots to choose from. In terms of improving the shots, here are five easy ways to get great results.

  1. Angles - don’t always go for the obvious angle. Whilst bath bombs are spherical, you can stack them, or turn them so that the saturn ring (around the middle) isn’t horizontal. Stack soaps or steamers at odd angles.

Simply stacking a couple of bars of soap, gives a much better photo than if you lay them flat

Simply stacking a couple of bars of soap, gives a much better photo than if you lay them flat

2. Action shots rock! The best thing about bath bombs, is when they hit the water. We often video ours, to show to customers at fairs/markets - but you will need photos for your portfolio. If you want to get a good photo of your bath bombs activating, use a sink and place the bomb in it gently (alwyas make sure the taps have stopped running and the water is still). Take the photos from directly above - and take a succession of them. You never know how the bath bomb is going to react or what patterns it’s going to make.

This is a pink & blue bath bomb which has been in the water for about a minute. The shot was taken from directly above the water

This is a pink & blue bath bomb which has been in the water for about a minute. The shot was taken from directly above the water

3. Fill the frame! This is really simple. Avoid having lots of space around your products. You can take a shot with space around your products, but use an editing tool to crop it - removing unwanted empty space always improves a photo!

This photo was a tray on a table - it looks much better without the table!

This photo was a tray on a table - it looks much better without the table!

4. Lighting - always try to take photos during the day, in a well lit area. Near to a window is perfect! The more natural light you can use, the better your photo will be. Avoid taking shots in a poorly lit area and using the flash. It will light up your products but cast shadows.

This shot is dark & a flash was used so you can see shadows

This shot is dark & a flash was used so you can see shadows

This shot was taken in front of a window during the day - you can see the difference such a simple step makes

This shot was taken in front of a window during the day - you can see the difference such a simple step makes

5. Not every photo has to be of the finished product! To add variety, take photos as you go. Sometimes it is as important to document the process as well as the end result. Well taken pictures of ingredients being measured out, mixed in bowls, or photos of pans with melting oils - they all have potential to look great!

This is just a simple bath bomb, resting in the mixing bowl. it’s being tapped with a spoon to release the bomb - but it demonstrates the method used to good effect.

This is just a simple bath bomb, resting in the mixing bowl. it’s being tapped with a spoon to release the bomb - but it demonstrates the method used to good effect.

Don’t forget - we love to feature photos on our social media feeds - so if you are happy for us to feature yours you can either tag us, give us a mention or just simply email a copy to us. If you have good video footage of your bath bombs in action, we sometimes use these as promotional posts to demonstrate what can be learnt on our course. Again - get in touch if you are happy for us to feature you. We don’t put names on the posts, but if you are happy for us to do so, we will!

Happy clicking :)


4 reasons why our DofE skills course could be right for you...

If you are embarking on either your Bronze or Silver DofE award, then you will need to give careful consideration to the choices you make. Learning a new skill should not only be about educating yourself, it should be fun as well. If you are still procrastinating, consider the following;

1. Soakster is an Approved Activity Provider - we have full accreditation from the DofE and are authorised not only to deliver content but to write assessors reports too. This means that although you should always update your local DofE leader with details of what you are doing for each section, there is no need to seek their approval for our course. The DofE have already done this - so you can get started straight away.

2. The photo opportunities are fantastic! For your DofE portfolio you need to provide photographs which will be incorporated into your portfolio. Our course provides an array of photographic opportunities - preparing, making, moulding, using and of course the final products. How colourful they are is up to you, the limit is your imagination.

3. Our course is unique - we can guarantee you will not find anything quite like it, anywhere else. We like to think that almost everyone who completes this course, will never have made their own soap or a multi coloured bath bomb and yet they are products that we all use regularly. Your DofE award should be a personal journey of adventure and education. Our course fits the bill perfectly. 

4. Once you start, you won't want to stop - a little learning is a dangerous thing. Once you have a few products under your belt, your mind will start thinking about what else you can make and who you are going to gift it to. The likelihood is you won't just complete the course and stop. The possibilities are endless.

Full details of our DofE Skills course are available here

If you have any questions before signing up, please get in touch - we are more than happy to answer them.


Duke of Edinburgh Skills course - learn to make bath bombs & soap

The Duke of Edinburgh's Award (abbreviated to DofE) is a youth awards programme which rewards teenagers & young adults for completing a series of exercises. Amongst the categories requiring completion is skills, where participants are required to learn a new skill and be able to evidence what they have learnt throughout a minimum 12-week period.

Since we get asked so often at events, how bath bombs are made – we have put together a Duke of Edinburgh skills course designed specifically for those looking learn a new skill over a 12-week period, whilst having fun. It is aimed at complete beginners and includes both recipes and full instructions to make nine products. The remainder of the 12-week course covers the importance of safety, labelling and other aspects which are relevant.

How it meets DofE criteria:

  • Participants will learn a new practical skill which we hope will become a personal interest
  • Some of the more advanced bath bombs are challenging – participants will learn to develop patience, problem solving and persistence.
  • The course touches briefly on the science of bath bombs too – so it’s educational
  • We provide templates for completion each week to accompany photos, so participants can monitor their progress as they work through the course.
  • By the end of the course participants will have the necessary skills to make wonderful gifts for friends and family
  • Assessment is at the end of the course and the assessors report will be written by a member of the Guild of Soap & Toiletry Makers.

What is included in the price?

  • Recipes
  • Illustrated instructions
  • Troubleshooting guide
  • Equipment & ingredients list
  • Recommended suppliers list
  • Weekly progress template
  • Email Support
  • End of course assessment
  • Assessors report

The course is easy to follow and contains illustrations & photos at every point to show each step of the recipe. We are also available for email support throughout the 12 weeks (and after if participants decide to continue making bath bombs & soaps). The download is in PDF format, so there is no need to print it out.

At the end of the course, participants are sent a link to the online assessment. It is based only on the course content and consists of multiple choice questions. Once this has been passed the assessors reports will be written & submitted.

To purchase the course content & start on your journey towards learning a skill which will stay with you for life - click here.

 

Product testing

The best bit about this business is the amount of testing that has to be done before products can be taken to market. We have a constant supply of freshly made bath bombs which sit in a basket in the bathroom - and the only houserule is; never have a bath without trying one.

 

Today's offering was a basic lavender bomb. I'm still working on the final base recipe, so whilst I do that I take the various colours/fragrances out for a test run. This one combines Bicarb, Citric Acid, Kaolin clay, Cocoa butter, SLS & Sweet Almond oil. The colour is exceptionally vivid, maybe too much so - but the dispersal of colour in the bath is hypnotising - which is exactly the effect I wanted. Onwards and upwards.