What's What - The BlueDome guide to outdoor qualifications


As an employer of Outdoor Instructors and also a provider of training, this question perplexes me. Over the past six years there has been a massive increase of courses being run the length and breadth of the country supposedly training outdoor pursuit instructors for the Industry.

Currently you name it; it’s on offer; from NVQ Level 2 Activity Leader to NVQ Level 3 Outdoor Education, Professional Instructor Courses, National Diploma in Outdoor Education (BTEC First Diplomas now being introduced), Higher National Diplomas in Outdoor Education or Adventurous Activity Management (or the so called Foundation Degree). Degrees in a whole host of associated areas!
Why are these courses being introduced?

How much is the Industry having it’s say to the providers of these courses?
And are they producing the desired requirements of staff?

As people in the Industry, surely we should be taking a close look at what our Industry requires. The shortfall of certain qualifications, and the lack of experience. How often do you see an advert asking for applicants to hold an NVQ or National Diploma? Or person required, who holds a Degree in Outdoor Education. You only have to look at any of the Outdoor Education Magazines or staffing websites to get a full clear picture of what the Industry requires.
Almost all the afore mentioned magazines are looking for National Governing Body Awards; British Canoe Union Level 2 Coach, Single Pitch Award, Walking Group Leader Award or Summer Mountain Leader. Royal Yachting Association Dinghy Instructor.

Over the past three years I have regularly been advertising for Instructors. I have liased with many other managers across the Country regarding the position with regards to recruitment. Where have all the qualified Instructors gone?
Time and time again I get candidates applying who have completed one of these so called College Courses preparing students for the Industry. Finding they only have their BCU 2 Star etc. It shocks me that after completing a 2 year course, these students do not hold anywhere near the desired skills and qualifications to get a job in the industry.
Now before all College Lecturers/Instructors are in uproar and start writing in complaining, there are exceptions to this. I have over the years had some excellent ex students.

We run an adult course, training people to work in the Industry and I would say that over 40% of the students are disgruntled College students, young adults who have been completely let down by these Colleges. They have been told one thing at recruitment but the courses never come up with the so-called goods. Instead the Colleges continue in coning young adults into Further Education, promising them one thing and delivering another. Oh what a great attraction! Come and do a course that you spend one or two days participating in outdoor pursuits. Who can blame the students! We all wish these courses were about when we were younger. Surely within 2 years these colleges can get them through some of the necessary qualifications. Obviously not!

Am I asking for too higher qualifications? There was a time when we were looking for people with a minimum of SPA and BCU Level 2 Coach. Now due to the desperately low number of enquiries I have even had to lower this standard. What is the point in Colleges advertising and recruiting to these courses, if they do not give them the necessary skills / qualifications to take that step into the Industry. These young people end up working for Summer Camps instead running Outdoor Education at a lower level with so called “in house training”. Thus still failing to progress them through their own personal development and into achieving the basic qualifications.

What about Minibus driving!
Wake up Industry, this is going to have major implications on us. All young Instructors entering our employment cannot drive minibuses, unless they complete their PCV- which is expensive and very time consuming. If we are not careful we will have to completely dumb down outdoor education, and all build towers on site, dig out ponds for kayaking and walk just on site. Surely the Colleges and Universities should be looking at constructively assisting in this area of training. Funding should be sort through the Learning Skills Council etc. Go on Colleges make that bold move. Offer your students their PCV! That would certainly make them very employable, linked with some of the NGB Awards. That’s what the Industry requires and if we are going to be able to continue to run true Outdoor Educational Experiences, then this move needs to happen.

T Gee
For your views and thoughts do e-mail me at TGEE8@hotmail.com

Ben completed a HND in Adventurous Activity Management
Within 2 years he only achieved BCU 2 Star Kayak, GNAS and RYA Powerboat Level 2

Greg completed a BTEC National Diploma in Public Services with Outdoor Education
Within 2 years he only achieved his BCU 1 star kayak

Lisa competed a BTEC National Diploma in Outdoor Education.
Within 2 years she achieved RYA Level 2, BCU 2 Star Kayak, BCU 2 Star Canoe

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