Fostering Futures through instructor training pathways

by Lucy Carver

We celebrate the success of a recent professional pathway project with the support of Education Outdoors New Zealand (EONZ) and Sport New Zealand | Ihi Aotearoa; training safe, high-functioning, respectful and culturally aware new instructors.

With support from Education Outdoors New Zealand (EONZ) and the Tuia ki Tawhiti | Collaborative Futures Fund established by Sport New Zealand | Ihi Aotearoa, we were able to deliver the Fostering Futures Project, which supported six trainee instructors in their pathway between education and employment. The project sought to develop facilitation, planning and relevant ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills necessary to be an instructor at Whenua Iti Outdoors (WIO) with a mix of cultural and adventure-based training.  The six trainees came from very different backgrounds, some with very little exposure to outdoor/ adventure activities.

This video showcases how the Fostering Futures Project enabled pathways for rangatahi Māori into roles at Whenua Iti Outdoors

Our experience from training and mentoring instructors in the past is that trainee instructors thrive in a nurturing, well supported environment. When trainees are given tangible opportunities to be mentored by more experienced tutors the trainees feel more comfortable testing their new skills and trying things in a supportive and safe environment. As their confidence and experience grow, they build a practical knowledge base that covers things like group management, conflict resolution techniques, hard skills like high-ropes and kayaking, adventure-based learning games that develop teamwork as well as cultural competencies and relevant tikanga.  

Our six recent trainees brought fresh energy and new ideas that were woven into the fabric of our organisation over time. They were open-minded, hungry for knowledge and had an amazing work ethic! During course debriefs, our senior instructors often remarked that it was especially rewarding for them to share their knowledge and see the trainees achieve success during the project. 

Trainee instructor Taylor smiles while canyoning

Trainee instructor Taylor smiles while canyoning!

In many respects, mentorship programmes are the ideal mechanism for practical trades like outdoor education to train and on-board new staff. Like apprenticeship programmes in more traditional trades like carpentry, plumbing or bricklaying, the outdoor education sector benefits from senior staff bringing newer staff members into the trade. There is a lot to learn and a high degree of risk with some of the activities, particularly those at height like abseiling where the consequence of harm can be extreme. Because of this, the outdoor education sector in Aotearoa is extremely careful to ensure new staff are appropriately qualified and competent before they are given the leadership reins with a student group.  

It’s also important for those training in kaupapa Māori environments to mahi haumaru, work safely, under the guidance of kaiako and kaumatua Māori who can guide appropriate tikanga across a range of contexts. In this way, mātauranga Māori is shared carefully and appropriately, and our trainee kaiako have culturally appropriate mentorship to whakamana their skills and strengths. 

In our experience, a trainee who’s been professionally mentored is more likely to achieve a high level of proficiency, is much less likely to leave for opportunities in other industries and is more likely to engage in ongoing work with us. This is a win-win for an organisation like ours which celebrates safe, high-functioning, respectful and culturally aware instructors! It’s our hope that the Fostering Futures Project can be extended or replicated in the future.  

We greatly appreciate the support we have had from Education Outdoors New Zealand’s Tuia Ki Tawhiti | Collaborative Futures Fund and the support of Sport New Zealand | Ihi Aotearoa which enabled this project.  

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