Hawkes, 22, joined the club from Hartlepool last summer but made just one senior appearance for the Wearsiders during the 2020/21 season.
After a promising pre-season, the attacking midfielder scored his first goal for Sunderland during a 2-1 Carabao Cup win over Port Vale this week, converting Alex Pritchard’s pass with a neat finish.
Hawkes hopes it’s a sign of things to come and believes he can be an asset for the senior side this campaign.
“When I first came here I thought I would be in and around the first team and they told me I’d be between the 23s and the first team,” admitted Hawkes after the Port Vale win.
“Obviously we had quite a big squad last year and the chances were quite limited. I played in the cup and then an injury set me back a little bit.
“The 23s helped massively and hopefully this year I can push on with the first team.”
He added: “I thought last year was great for my development coming from Hartlepool and I learnt a lot in the 23s.
“But I think you saw tonight, I don’t think you get what you got late on in the game playing for the 23s, but movements on and off the ball it helped massively last year.
“My aim this year is to get around the first team.”
Hawkes isn’t the only player who has made the step up from the under-23 side to the first team this summer, with the likes of Ellis Taylor, Oliver Younger, Dan Neil and goalkeeper Anthony Patterson all starting at Port Vale.
Black Cats boss Lee Johnson has been keen to promote players from the academy set-up, and Hawkes says that has given him confidence.
“He’s really good with the young lads and he’s not afraid to play lads like Ellis,” replied Hawkes when asked about Johnson.
“He’s been brilliant with the young lads and brilliant with me since he’s come in so long may it continue.”
Hawkes has also learnt from some of the club’s established first-team players such as Aiden McGeady, who also plays on the left flank and likes to cut infield.
“I’d probably say Geeds I learn quite a lot from because he’s quite a similar player to me and likes to drift inside from the left and pick up pockets of space,” replied Hawkes when asked what he’s learnt from members of the senior squad.
“In training everyday you are looking at what he’s doing and looking at little things. To learn from someone like that at such a high level is brillant for me.
“I speak to him now and again and he gives me little different movements that if it’s good to come off the line, when to come off the line, when the centre-halves are stepping in and stuff like that.
“The gaffer does it as well so it's good just to see them sometimes, even when you’re on the bench just the little things that they do.”