The Outward Bound Trust has launched an exciting new Women’s Leadership Course (closing date 22nd April 2019). Kate O’Brien, Project Manager at the Trust, spoke to us about the scheme to give some insight into what the scheme is about and who they are looking for; especially helpful for people who are curious about whether it might be a good option for their future.
Thanks for talking to us today, Kate. Please will you tell us about the programme?
Sure. This is a 10 week programme of personal adventure and development, mixed with opportunities to work with groups of young people alongside experienced instructors, in the kinds of environments required to gain Summer ML, Rock Climbing Instructor and Paddlesports Leader. It’s going to be a unique blend of technical skills inputs, group experience, understanding psychology relevant to personal development/reaching potential and structured mentoring.
What’s the best thing about this new course?
It is motivated by genuine desire to contribute to a live challenge within the sector and society more broadly. A lot of work and research behind the scenes has gone into creating something we think will be valuable for people, and help Outward Bound to develop greater understanding of gender equality, for the benefit of the young people who come on courses. We are in the process of bringing together some of our most qualified and experienced instructors to facilitate the programme, lead the technical/psychology inputs and become mentors. These are all people (men and women) who have had their own exciting journeys working in outdoor learning and are now keen to support others who are at a different place in their career.
As many aspirant female outdoor instructors may identify with, it’s pretty rare to be able to train with female role models leading (as well as male), and alongside female peers. Our research suggests that there can be many benefits to this approach.
What would you say to people who think running a women’s course is unnecessary or counter productive?
So far the response has been overwhelmingly positive which is great. I think a course like this throws up some interesting questions around gender equality and anything that invites us to be curious about the status quo can only be a good thing. Topics like this can get a range of responses and feelings, not always positive, which came across in our research phase.
Sometimes women’s courses are criticized for singling women out, creating separation, or not addressing the significant role of men in gender equality. Perhaps even, being unfair to men. In considering why Outward Bound would do this it is useful to look at historical context, both within society and the outdoor sector. This has created some disempowering narratives for women, especially when it comes to adventure, risk and leadership. We are evolving from a place where limitations on women’s lives and roles were commonplace. Despite freedom of access and opportunity in 2019, historic oppression and discrimination continue to have an impact on the psyche of some women and can have an impact on how female outdoor leaders experience their development within the sector. Events of the past shape our understanding of outdoor learning, what is valued and who belongs. Some of this is conscious and recognisable, some is unconscious and far more subtle, invisibly weaved into the fabric of the everyday. Change requires a broader understanding and considered action.
The course design draws on insights from psychology and sociology, which show the importance of both the individual (e.g. skills, agency, values and beliefs) and social factors (e.g. social norms, roles & identity, network & relationships) in development.
So, is this the only thing that Outward Bound are working on in terms gender equality?
Not at all. There are a series of actions going on behind the scenes, which we are happy to share if people are interested.
For this role, what sort of person are you looking for?
Outward Bound are best placed to offer opportunities to people who are between training and assessment of the core qualifications required to work as an instructor. People who have undertaken some NGB training courses are best suited to this opportunity. An aspiration to develop young people through adventure is important, as this is at the heart of what we do, and the area of leadership that the course is designed to develop. We are particularly interested to hear from women who have skills, experience and motivation in personal development but have perhaps not yet worked in wilder environments or are experiencing challenges with gaining the technical qualifications or leadership confidence required.
We also recognise that there are women who feel they don’t experience barriers, and dislike the concept of women-only. If you like the sound of the content, and opportunity, it’s definitely worth applying to come along to the “Is it for you?” day which we’re holding in May. Before getting involved in this area of work I’m not sure it’s something I would’ve immediately been drawn to. As part of the research I have become involved in several female specific events and networks and have definitely been positively surprised.
How does the programme help learning and development?
Great question. Experience + challenge + person centred approach, meaning you can be your best + psychology theories of development/potential + genuine choice + structured mentoring/reflection + supportive group of people with shared goals + inspiring role models. Surely only great things can happen…
It sounds like it might be tough/challenging. What would you say about that?
Yeah it could be. In the sense that we hope you will be learning at the edge of your current capabilities, which can feel challenging. I think the great thing about this course is you will also be learning about yourself in the context of challenge, and some of the psychology around challenge responses, self-awareness and resilience. By experiencing your own personal development in challenging situations, it is likely you will be in a stronger position to support young people with theirs.
You will have a degree of choice and input into the programme as it progresses. We hope you will co-create the right level of opportunity to support your development. We are simply providing the resource, people and process to enable this. There will be a great network of people who will be aiming to provide the right mix of challenge and support for where you’re at.
For the person who is successful, what can they hope to move onto when the programme finishes?
If Outward Bound seems like the kind of place you’d like to work there are recruitment opportunities each year. We run a paid Instructor Development Scheme and Graduate Development Scheme so you can continue training while in employment if you still have qualifications to achieve. It might be that you are ready to do your assessments at the end of the 10 weeks and then will be in a great position to apply for a permanent Instructor or Senior Instructor role (depending on previous experience). If you like the idea of a permanent contract, progressive payscale, great training and joining a community of outdoor professionals, it could be for you. The 10 weeks will give you great personal and leadership experience for whatever other direction you may choose to take.
If someone reading this article loves the idea, but thinks they might not have the confidence or the ability, what would you suggest?
I would say it’s not decision time yet! Sometimes we hold ourselves back from opportunity through fear, doubt or bailing too soon because there are too many what ifs….
Outward Bound are holding an “Is it for you?” day on the 16thMay where we will invite the most suited applicants to come and find out more about organisation, what the course is all about, meet some staff and share an outdoor experience. It is also likely there will be some kind of selection process so you will only be offered a place on the course if you’re ready to benefit from it. If there is high demand it is possible we will run another in the future, so it’s always worth putting yourself forward, even if it’s not for this time.
How can people apply?
Click the link here and follow the instructions
If you’re unsure of this is for you, or just want to find out more drop me an email or give me a call (contact details with application info). I’m really happy to chat to people about our work in this area. Similarly if you’re reading this, have done work or research in this area and would like to share thoughts with us as we develop the course, that would be very welcome.
Finally, to be in with the best chances of being successful, what tips can you give?
- Answer the questions with honesty and clarity.
- Plan ahead
- Explain your experience, where you’re at with your logbook and if you’re missing a training course right now, speak about how you plan to do it before October.
Good Luck with your application.
Thanks to Kate O’Brien, Project Manager at Outward Bound.