Tanya Lee, the Centre Manager, writes:
Dinton Pastures Country Park, near Reading, Berkshire, finds itself in an unusual predicament pre-season after a variety of post-lockdown lifestyle revaluations, leaving it without a team of full-time senior instructors and activities manager. Half of the core team have either reduced their hours, re-located to more rural and coastal areas or re-trained and left the outdoor industry entirely. Interestingly this is something that appears to be region wide and beyond, and the centre is now exploring ideas around incentives to draw people into the area and adopting a more targeted approach to their recruitment as well looking to internally to grow their own.
The centre is surprised to be faced with these lifestyle shifts, considering the difficulties some industries faced during the pandemic by means of unsecure income and furlough. The centre offers excellent job security within the local government, good salaries, pension scheme and annual leave benefits and did not furlough any staff during the troubles.
Dinton Activity Centre is well established and has recently moved into a new multimillion pound carbon neutral building with high-tech meeting rooms, second floor spectator terrace and large indoor climbing hall. It is great shame to know that these new facilities will be underused and the activity program limited this spring due to the staffing shortages the centre faces. The centre will focus on weekend courses and public facing activities and look to the summer holidays providing a healthier picture. The centre has a large pool of longstanding casual instructors to call upon during the late spring and summer, providing a positive late season. Meanwhile, management will be all hands-on deck to drive recruitment and onboarding new staff.
The centre has an active volunteer instructor training program, often delivering two assistant instructor courses per year, along with a dinghy instructor course in autumn and a senior instructor course every other summer. It also offers a range of in-house climbing and high rope instructor training, archery GB awards, British Fencing Level 1, canoe and kayak coach training and assessments to name but a few development pathways.
Being set in a country park the outdoor education programs provides local schools and youth groups with opportunities to reconnect with their natural environment though bushcraft skills, river studies, pond dipping, meadow and woodland studies and navigation skills to name but a few things on offer. The difficulty is turning those instructors into full time staff, as the outdoor industry is not highly visualised as a career choice but more of a summer and weekend job. We would like to change this stigma and make the outdoor industry more sustainable as a career.
Mike Haigh, RYA Regional Communicator adds: If you’re not already an instructor, or you’re an instructor looking to progress, the RYA has recently launched its 2022 Regional Instructor Training programme Also take a look at the free online Continuing Professional Development sessions for instructors. So book yourself a course, have a look at the development sessions, and apply for a job at Dinton. Simples!