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Wednesday, 01 July 2015

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Showing leadership in the great outdoors

the great outdoors: Students on an outdoor pursuits challenge in Keswick

OUTDOOR pursuits managers run centres that provide facilities for and instruction in a range of outdoor activities, such as climbing, mountaineering, water sports, orienteering, horse riding and cycling.

They manage, train and monitor a team of staff, including instructors, ensuring adherence to safety regulations at all times.

The nature of the role may be educational, particularly when working with certain client groups, such as school pupils, people with special needs or young offenders.

Outdoor pursuits activities are also offered to corporate groups in the field of management and personal development and, increasingly, for pleasure and adventure holidays.

The nature of the work varies depending on the activities provided, the client group and the employer, but typical activities may include managing, recruiting, training and monitoring staff, and supporting staff development; ensuring staff adhere to the safety regulations laid down by the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA); providing instruction in a specialist area, such as mountaineering or sailing; planning appropriate programmes of outdoor activities for groups, usually in liaison with teachers or managers of the group.

You might also be dealing with queries, problems and complaints from guests; purchasing, checking, maintaining and preparing equipment; and experimenting with new provision, which might include after school and holiday clubs for children, new activities such as quad biking, and courses not normally associated with outdoor pursuits such as dog training or martial arts

Salary and conditions

AT A local authority centre, a manager would start on £21,000 to £25,000. An instructor can earn anything from under £10,000 to around £25,000, depending on experience and skills.

Seasonal instructors are paid on a weekly basis, anything from £80 to £150 per week, or on an hourly rate of anything between £8 and £15. If employed as a qualified teacher, you will be paid the same rates as teachers in schools.

Work is office-based and classroom-based, as well as outdoors.

Posts with local authorities can offer the best job security.

Hours can be very long because of the residential nature of the work. You often need to be available 24 hours a day.

Work is often seasonal and many jobs are on temporary contracts. Work may be affected by conditions beyond your control, such as the foot and mouth epidemic in 2001, or poor weather.

The work is physically demanding, so fitness and stamina are essential. You often have to put up with less comfortable surroundings and circumstances such as camping out and bad weather.

There are more men than women in this area of employment – 80 per cent of managers and 60 per cent of instructors are men.

Entry requirements

ALTHOUGH this career is open to graduates from a variety of disciplines, the following subject areas offer a particularly useful background: outdoor education; physical education/sport/recreation management; environmental studies.

A degree or HND is not absolutely essential, although it will boost your chances of securing a management role.

Postgraduate qualifications are available in outdoor education and recreation management. A Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) specialising in outdoor education are available at universities throughout the UK.

Teaching qualifications are an advantage as opportunities are often in local authority centres.

A strong interest, along with skills and experience, in at least one outdoor activity is usually sought – the more activity skills you can offer the better.

You will almost certainly need experience of working as an instructor, along with a formal instructor’s qualification from the appropriate national governing body in at least one main activity.

If these qualifications are not offered as part of your degree course or through the clubs you are involved in, contact the national governing body for your sport for details of courses and qualifications. You can find details of NGBs on UK Sport.

Candidates will need to show evidence of an ability to establish a rapport with a wide range of people; a friendly and diplomatic nature; outstanding leadership skills, a willingness to lead by example, and the ability to motivate and inspire others; and decision-making skills and the ability to stay calm in difficult, even dangerous situations.

You will have high energy, stamina, good health and physical strength, and excellent communication skills.

In addition, it is important to be interested in other aspects of the outdoors, such as the geography, geology and natural, social and industrial history of the region in which you want to work.

A first aid qualification will be essential, as will a life-saving qualification if you plan to be involved in water sports. A community sports leader’s award will be an advantage, as will involvement in activities such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, Explorer Scouts, the University Officers Training Corps, university societies, sports teams and expeditions.

For many people, the first step into this career is working as a seasonal instructor at an outdoor centre or on an activity holiday.

Competition for management posts can be stiff.

Maturity is a must in this career, because of the responsibility involved and the need to have acquired relevant experience. For many, this is a second career after school teaching, the armed forces, youth work or coaching.


TRAINING is ongoing once in post, as it is essential to keep qualifications such as up to date first aid training.

Changes in the popularity of activities may mean gaining qualifications in other specialist areas. For example, if marine leisure is identified as a growth area, additional qualifications in this area could increase employability.

It is useful to learn how to drive a minibus and tow a trailer so that you can transport clients and equipment.

In order to gain year-round employment, it is also an advantage to consider the implications of varying seasonal demands, for example, a level two canoeing qualification allows you to coach canoeing in summer, but a level three qualification is needed for winter, because the waters are more dangerous then.

There are also major differences in the teaching of climbing during the summer and winter months. Contact the relevant national governing body or the Institute for Outdoor Learning for details of the qualifications you can take.

Outdoor pursuits managers may also take qualifications in related fields, such as counselling and mentoring; facility management; training and development; and finance or marketing.


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