Guide To The Outdoor Industry For Parents

orange square Working in the outdoors is becoming an increasingly sought after option amongst young people, whether as a reaction to the current economic disaster downturn, or because the transition from education to the work place has always been, and will always be, a big step that some people like to defer for as long as possible. As a parent, hearing that our child would like to start their adult working life in such an industry may be a bit alarming, I mean, messing about showing people how to paddle a canoe or slide down a zip wire is a bit of waste of time isn't it? Hopefully this article will help convince you otherwise; that in fact a career or even a first job as an outdoor activity instructor can equip you with lots of valuable and transferable life skills.

It is not difficult to realise why the industry has grown in popularity amongst job seekers in the last decade or two. The opportunity to make a difference to so many people and not be chained to a desk is something most us secretly crave. Outdoor activities in general, and even those activities which were once out of reach for most, are now widely accessible, with schools and youth centres seeing such activities as a great way to develop confidence and teach valuable skills outside the classroom. But if it is your child who wants to train to become an outdoor instructor instead of going to college or studying to become an accountant, they first thing you are going to want is an understanding of how they could develop if they are to seriously pursue a career in the outdoors, or whether that time is going to be misspent if they decide to call it a day after a year or two.


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Qualities sought

Let us take a look at what these companies look for in their instructors, and how those skills may be useful for your child. Outdoor companies cater for a wide range of clients, but the main focus tends to be on children and to a lesser extent, the disabled. This means that companies are looking for staff who have confidence and who can really engage with people but at the same time have the maturity to realise that Health and Safety is always the number one priority. Candidates are usually in the age group from school leavers to early twenties, with the majority falling around the 18 to 21 mark, ie college leavers. Some young adults may also wish to work a season between the end of A levels and the start of a degree.

The pay probably won't look incredible to most parents, but whether it is a training wage, minimum wage, or something better, the fact that they are earning, often for the first time, is clearly a positive step. It is also worth considering that the job may well include food and accommodation, which suddenly makes the remuneration rather better. Did we mention that as part of the job they are also likely to be trained and put in for one or more nationally recognised teaching qualifications? You can read more about these on the link at the bottom of this article. Career development is one of the best ways that outdoor activity centres can compete for candidates in the first place. Each company will be investing in your child to bring them up to the level they need to be at in order to teach their clients. What they do not want it to have some other company benefit from that investment, so creating an environment that nurtures talent and promotes from within is a sensible move that most will recognise and take advantage of.

Internal progression

For those who do want to progress within the industry, the first rung of the senior managerial ladder would be that of a Chief Instructor, who has responsibility for a large team of instructors. A Chief Instructor would typically earn £18,000 - £22,000 and would often receive free food and accommodation if based at a residential centre. A Chief Instructor is responsible for the skills and career development of staff and would undertake recognizable managerial activities such as performance reviews and monitoring staff performance.

The next level of the ladder is occupied by Centre Managers and as the name suggests, this is a managerial role. Centre Managers have a range of Line Managers reporting to them who they are responsible for managing. They also liaise with outside suppliers and regulatory bodies. A good Centre Manager can negotiate, has an understanding of Health and Safety and Employment Law, has good oratory skills and is passionate about staff development. A typical salary would be £25,000 - £30,000+.


safety harness close up

External progression

There is also the option of becoming a 'Freelancer' and working for companies on a contract-to-contract basis. Freelancers need to have a good range of qualifications. The Single Pitch Award which relates to Climbing, a Mountain Leader Award which qualifies someone to lead hill walks and UKCC qualifications in Canoeing and Kayaking are all highly desired. Undertaking these qualifications on your own can come at quite a cost but would be a good investment, as freelance pay is very much linked to qualifications and ability.

But what if working as an outdoor instructor is more of a gap year or relatively short term objective for your child; you will want to know how such a job can benefit them moving forwards. Well, the advanced communication skills they will develop during the role come from having to be able to control the group, the ability to personalise the activity for each individual, the leadership required to take charge of a group of people, and also the ability to apply strict safety standards at all times, will mark them out as a very capable individual. The development of these skills can mean that the relatively young possess the necessary skills for supervisory positions where they are responsible for the activities and development of a team of instructors. The skills developed in the outdoors really are readily transferable to all sorts of jobs in teaching, retail, sales and a host of other sectors. We talk to employers in various industries on a daily basis, and the skills acquired by people who have worked as activity instructors are well recognised and regarded. The instructor qualifications we have mentioned above are not just teaching how to canoe or climb, but how to teach other people to do so. Teaching qualifications are extremely well regarded, combing that with practical experience and you are on your way to building a valuable CV. So Before dismissing your child's wish to work outdoors as a waste of time, make sure you find out more about the role and consider how actually, starting out in outdoor adventure could be a very sensible move.


Instructor characteristics

Instructor characteristics

If you want to work outdoors as an activity instructor you need to know the qualities that employers are looking for, and therefore, whether you are going to be suitable for the role. Instructing introduces you to lots of new people, often on a daily basis. You are required to quickly gel so that you can help them get the most from the new skills and experiences that they are there to take part in. That means you need to be a certain kind of person. In this article we look at the characteristics that separate good instructors from the rest, and discuss why these character traits are so important for the role.

Instructor characteristics >>

Triathlon coaching pathway

Triathlon coaching pathway

Inspirational Olympians and Britain's prominence in the sport of triathlon in recent years have resulted in a huge increase in interest, both in people wishing to take part in the three disciplines, and in those looking to coach the new influx of newcomers. British Triathlon is the national governing body, with further divisions for England, Wales and Scotland. In this article we give you a background to the sport, and talk about how to get involved in coaching at local club level and at national level.

Triathlon coaching pathway >>

Mountain Instructor awards

Mountain Instructor awards

Following on from our Mountain Leader page we now take a look at the even more serious Mountain Instructor scheme, overseen by Mountain Leader Training UK. The leader awards are great qualifications to have on your CV and very useful when it comes to introducing groups to our upland areas, but for serious climbers and budding mountaineers the MIA and MIC scheme is the next target on the horizon.

Mountain Instructor awards >>