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Activity Instructor Jobs

What Is An Activity Instructor?
When thinking about finding a job at an activity centre, perhaps the first role that comes to mind is that of the activity instructor. Activity centres offer many types of programmes containing various adventure sports from mountaineering to scuba diving, depending on the centre and each of these activities has to be headed by a leader whose job title is Activity Instructor.

There are generally three levels of instructor in any activity centre - the Assistant Activity Instructor, the Instructor and the Senior Instructor. The job titles can vary between different companies but roles and responsibilities are very similar. Instructors are the face and the personality of the activity centre because it’s they who are working with any participants who come to the centre to take part in the adventure programmes.

Activity centres work with children, teenagers and young adults on a variety of programmes so instructors need to be adaptable in working with and relating to people of all ages and making sure the programme suits a particular group. The role of instructor is a full on position where you need to be enthusiastic, knowledgeable about and qualified in your adventure sports and able to communicate effectively with the team you are instructing.

But, after all the qualifications, certificates and safety knowledge, there is one main element that is central to the role of an activity instructor. As an instructor at an activity centre, you are the person who is going to be spending many hours with a group of individuals, day and night. Throughout their time at the centre, you are their mentor and role model, and when their programme comes to an end and they leave for home, you will be sending them away with a true sense of achievement and increased confidence for which they are going to remember you for a long time.

The role of instructor is very tiring but very rewarding, and centres are always looking for team members who can rise to the occasion at all times, are enthusiastic at all times and who are resilient. If you are a student or a graduate thinking about applying for a seasonal or full time role as an activity instructor and you think you've got what it takes, then read on to find out more detail about the roles of the Assistant Activity Instructor, the Instructor and the Senior Instructor.
Assistant / Trainee / Apprentice Activity Instructor
If you have never before worked in an activity centre and you have no particular outdoor pursuits qualifications, this doesn't mean you won’t be able to find activity instructor work with some companies. Many activity centres recruit full time and seasonal staff purely on your levels of enthusiasm and your keenness to work with children. For example, Acorn Adventure and Girlguiding recruit seasonal staff without qualifications as long as you can demonstrate you are super keen and capable of doing the job. PGL give instructors the opportunity to get an apprenticeship in Active Leisure and Learning. JCA do not require any specific qualifications for their Apprentice Activity Instructor jobs, but they will train you so you finish the season with an Apprenticeship in Activity Leadership (NVQ Level 2). Kingswood hire 300 Apprentice Instructors each year for a 12 month apprenticeship which leads to an NVQ Level 2 in Activity Leadership and an apprenticeship in Sports & Recreation.
If it is your first experience of working in an activity centre and you have no previous instructor experience, chances are you are going to be working as an Assistant Activity Instructor or Apprentice Activity Instructor. This job title may vary a little from company to company but the clue to your responsibilities in this role is the word “assistant”. You are there to assist and to learn, and in that capacity, you will never be bored.

Additional Duties
Most activity centres, such as Acorn Adventure and Robin Wood are residential and instructors live on site. As an assistant activity instructor, you are likely to have night duties where you will be supervising children and young people to make sure they are behaving appropriately and just to be there if you are needed.

If there is a shop or a bar onsite for the adult guests - don’t forget, some activity centres cater for adult groups, too - you will probably be required to do shifts behind the bar and helping out in the shop. At meal times, you will also be required to help with the serving of food whether that’s in the dining areas or when out on activities.

So they’re all the added extras that perhaps you may not have considered as being part of an assistant activity instructor job! All centres are different but these tasks are worth bearing in mind.

Additional Duties
Let’s get to the adventure part. After all, if you are looking for work in an activity centre, you are going to be an outdoor loving person willing to take part in a variety of adventure sports. Going up the ladder, your first supervisor who you will have most dealing with is the Activity Instructor. As their assistant, your job will not be to trail around after the instructor but to shadow them, learn from them and give technical support in tasks that require two or more people - abseiling or climbing, for example.

In order to be safe and successful, an activity centre must invest a lot of time into the professional development and training of staff. As an assistant, you will be given the opportunity to - and will be expected to - take part in training courses that increase your experience and your qualifications so that eventually, you will qualify as an instructor. The Venture Centre run outdoor activity apprenticeships for assistant instructors which culminate in internationally recognised instructor qualifications. Your newly gained skills will be in use in your everyday work with children and adults. Even if you are a student taking a gap year and only want a seasonal post in an activity centre for a few months, you will still undergo all the training.

The job of an assistant activity instructor is never passive. On a technical level, at the end of the day, you are part of a team that is responsible for the ultimate safety of the participants who attend the programmes and you need to be able to deal with any situations that might arise when you are teaching and supporting activities. Are people using equipment correctly and are they paying attention to the instructor so tasks can be completed in a safe but fun way? You need to assist your instructor to make sure this is the case.

As an assistant activity instructor, as well as being an effective support for the instructor you are shadowing, you must also be able to think on your feet and work on your own initiative. For example, requesting more training or support for yourself where you think it’s necessary and coming up with alternative ideas if a planned outdoor pursuit isn’t feasible because of bad weather conditions. Sometimes, you may have to lead your group without supervision from the activity instructor. In the evenings, for example, depending on the centre, you could be in charge of coming up with a programme to keep everyone entertained before lights out in the form of games, a disco or group barbecue.

Responsibilities such as this are all designed to develop your decision making skills, gain confidence in leading groups and to familiarise yourself with adapting to different situations. Your programmes may be similar for each group you work with but their personalities are going to determine how your programme runs and how you deal with it. When you are out in the mountains carrying out trekking or climbing pursuits or playing a supporting role in water sports, you will be more confident in dealing with situations that can change in a split second and in that way, will become an effective assistant to your instructor.
The Role Of The Activity Instructor
If you have previous experience of working as an assistant activity instructor, in outdoor adventure sports (particularly with children and young people) or you have recognised coaching or instructor qualifications, then you could find work in an activity centre as an instructor. Depending on the company you work with, this could be a specialised role where you are responsible for one or two sports - water-based for example - or it could be general, where you look after the same group of people throughout the programme and instruct them in all the activities. Whichever it is, the role of instructor carries a lot of responsibility because you are in charge of the fun and the safety of your groups.
PGL Travel Ltd
When carrying out activities with a group, as an activity instructor you need to be teacher (both to the participants and to your assistant, if you have one), safety officer, supervisor, entertainer and mentor. It’s a mixed bag that is both tiring and rewarding. Instructors need to be good at decision making and at assessing what is an appropriate task for any given group. People go to activity centres to be really encouraged into completing challenging indoor and outdoor pursuits and really work outside their comfort zone. Instructors need to make decisions about how far to take that with each individual group they work with because a significant achievement for one group might be an easy task for another and vice versa.

As with most positions in the workplace, the more senior you become, the more paperwork is involved and if you work as an activity instructor in any centre, there is going to be some admin to take care of. Instructors have to maintain, log and report back to the management team (usually the senior instructor) about the state of equipment and resources and they also need to assess their group’s progress to make sure their level of programme is running effectively. As well as completing paperwork, instructors also need to attend staff meetings and contribute to them by reporting back about activities and making suggestions about how programmes can be adapted or improved. There will be opportunities for further training and, on top of all this, depending on the size of the centre and the number of staff employed, the activity instructor could also have the same Additional Duties as the assistant activity instructor (see above).
Senior Activity Instructor
Adventure Central
Can you be a manager and an effective team leader as well as being experienced in outdoor adventure sports? If so, you could well make a great senior activity instructor. The role of senior instructor is awarded to people who are highly experienced in a range of adventure sports, have previously worked as instructors, hold advanced qualifications across a variety of pursuits, are competent leaders and are skilled in dealing with higher management both within the activity centre and when liaising with outside companies. As you can imagine, it is a demanding but rewarding role and could be a good graduate career for candidates who have all the required qualifications and experience.
Senior activity instructors have a whole range of responsibilities depending on the activity centre they work in. It’s still a very hands on role with a lot of connection to the participants, including taking their turn to do night duties, as well as taking part in some activities.

The senior activity instructor is also supervisor over the instructors and their groups. Organisational skills are essential as they are responsible for liaising with instructors to plan group programmes and timetable them in sequence so that many activities can be running efficiently at any given time.

Activity centres must carry out risk assessments to make sure equipment is suitable for a task and also to make sure the environment where the task will be carried out is safe. Most activities are undertaken outdoors and fallen rocks, mountain scree, changes in river currents can all make a previously viable activity unsafe. As a senior instructor, it is your job to assess these risks and work out safe alternatives with instructors and higher management.

Can there be any more to the position of senior instructor? Yes, there can. You are also responsible for the professiınal development of your team of instructors by arranging appraisals and training. Depending on the company youı work for, you could also be in charge of budgets for the maintenance of equipment, for buying new equipment and other resources.

And, as with most roles in an activity centre, you will be an ambassador for the company, you will be enthusiastic and up for any challenge. This is not a career for everyone but for people who relish challenges like these, it’s going to be fulfilling.
Activity Instructor Pay & Qualifications
There is no general, set pay scale for activity instructors that crosses all companies. If you would like to work in an activity centre, make sure you check the individual company’s wages for outdoor instructor jobs. Some offer relatively low wages (minimum wage) but offer accommodation, training and other benefits while some wages might be higher but your food allowance is deducted from that figure. Also, some activity centres pay a flat rate, regardless of your qualifications and rewards while others will have increments where your pay increases slightly as you complete more training. XUK and Robin Wood are examples of companies that pay according to your awards and qualifications, although Robin Wood prefer to offer contracts of at least 6 months in length.

As for qualifications needed to be an activity instructor, again depending on the company, this can range from no qualifications needed right up to postgraduate qualifications for senior instructors. A general rule of thumb is a driving licence (preferably minibus) and a first aid certificate for an assistant activity instructor, NGB qualifications and previous experience for an instructor and a senior instructor should be a specialist in at least one area, have other qualifications and HR experience for dealing with staff. As with the salaries, check individual company requirements.

And for all activity instructor jobs, whatever level you’re at, whether it’s a seasonal job or a graduate career, and whichever company you work for, you will be hardworking, flexible and able to keep yourself highly motivated. Are you up for it? For summer seasonal work, start checking recruitment dates in January. For all other roles, check the E4S vacancy listings as positions arise.
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