Adventure Training Consultants – Denmark, Western Australia and Beyond

Understanding Outdoor Recreation Qualifications

Date: 25th June 2015

I am often asked by people who would like to become outdoor guides or instructors how they should go about it and what qualifications / courses they should do, there exists a whole selection of options and pathways and for those who are not familiar with the industry it can become confusing and frustrating.

The first concept to understand is that a qualification is essentially just confirmation of your experience and competency by an external organisation, there for the credibility of any qualification will ultimately be judged on the expertise and reputation of the organisation that awards / administers it.

In Australia there are essentially two pathways of recognised technical qualifications within the outdoor industry, they are,

  • The Nationally endorsed training package, sometimes referred to as VET (vocational educational training), consisting of a number of qualifications – Certificate II, III, IV, Diploma of outdoor recreation and skills sets – Abseil Guide single pitch (natural surface), canyoning guide multi pitch etc.
  • National organisations, activity specific professional bodies, independent companies – such as AC (Australian Canoeing), ACIA (Australian Climbing Instructor Association), RLSS (Royal Life Saving Society), Rescue 3 International, these organisation deliver and administer training and qualifications within their own areas of expertise and normally require a membership / revalidation process.

Qualifications and skill sets from the Nationally endorsed training package are delivered by RTO’s (Registered Training Organisations) and TAFE’s, there can be significant differences in the way the required units and elements are interpreted and delivered by the different organisations, there are RTO’s and TAFE’s that specialise in the delivery of the outdoor recreation package and provide high quality training and assessment processes, there are also RTO’s that deliver from the training package that do not have the same level of specialist knowledge or expertise which is then reflected in the quality of training and assessment provided.

National organisations, activity specific professional bodies and independent companies deliver training and guide / instructor schemes that they have created themselves, and work to their own syllabus and moderation processes, these organisations tend to consist of the leading instructors / coaches within the activity specific area and tend to have links to other international organisations, because they have control over their training and assessment processes there is normally more consistency with standards, a higher expected level of involvement / proficiency within the activity and an ongoing membership / qualification currency requirement.

Many outdoor professionals will be qualified through both or a mixture of these pathways, the key to being considered useful within the industry is being able to show Experience, Competency and Qualification. With that in mind if you would like to work as an outdoor instructor or guide you should,

  1. Participate in the activity you want to guide or instruct, to be able to guide or instruct others in an outdoor activity you need to develop good judgement which only comes through experience.

  2. Practice the activity you wish to guide or instruct, attend training courses and skills development courses, practice and participate with your peers, to guide or instruct others and look after their safety in the outdoors requires you to be able to operate in the environment with ease, your personal skills and abilities need to be high enough to look after yourself and the people with you.

  3. Prove your abilities through demonstration / assessment to a respected recognisable organisation (RTO, TAFE, National organisation, professional body etc.) to gain a qualification / certificate that indicates they agree with you that you have the required skills and experience.

Most organisations offer a training and assessment process, this is good as it helps you develop your instructional / guiding abilities and have consolidation time to practice and develop them, you can then be assessed when you feel you have developed the required ability level.

Once any outdoor activity qualification is achieved you should consider it the start of the process and aim to progress up through the qualification system or broaden your ability and knowledge base through continued development, systems and good practice are constantly evolving processes, continued improvement and development should be the aim.

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