Women's Outdoor Instructor Development Programme


Applications for this year’s Women's Outdoor Instructor Development Programme are open from Friday, 8 March until Monday, 8 April.

Course dates: 16 September to 22 November 2024

Location: Loch Eil, Scottish Highlands

“Is it for you?” Day: 11 May 2024, Ullswater Centre, Lake District

Why do we run a Women-Specific Development Programme?

We believe that role models matter to the young people we work with and we want to play a part in providing opportunities for the next generation of great female instructors.

50% of Outward Bound course participants are female, yet our instructional team is not representative. We recognise our traditionally masculine roots and therefore since 2019 we've been committed to taking action to redress the gender imbalance in our workforce. We don’t know if this is an answer to increasing representation by women within the outdoor sector. But we do know that if we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll likely get what we’ve always got. This is an opportunity to challenge ourselves, tread new ground and hopefully learn a lot through the process.

We've listened to practitioners, academics, national governing bodies, experts outside of the outdoor sector and most importantly you. Women looking forward to a career in the outdoors. We’ve heard from women who experience limitations (internal or external), women who don’t and from those who in hindsight recognise a variety of factors which have stalled progress, undermined confidence or limited movement towards their potential as an outdoor instructor.

These are themes that come up time and time again in conversation and research into women’s leadership in the outdoors. It’s exciting to be in a position to take some practical action!

Perhaps you identify with the self-doubt that can show up uninvited when you’re putting yourself forward for challenges, new roles or assessments. Or the feeling of needing to be 110% ready. You might have come across more subtle influences that can lead to a different experience for female leaders in the outdoors. When you stop and consider the history of participation, leadership and media portrayal in the outdoors, it’s unsurprising that this affects women disproportionately.

Maybe you recognise the value of an opportunity to be led and mentored by other women (as well as men), and the benefits that can flow from learning alongside female peers. Interestingly research suggests a paradox here, with some women feeling the benefit only after overcoming initial resistance to joining a female specific opportunity. Will you take the leap to find out?

It’s possible that none of the above applies to you and you are simply interested in the opportunity to develop your skills as an instructor in the outdoors. We’ve heard a mixture of responses to women specific courses. They won’t be for everyone. If you’re curious, and the course appeals, we hope you’ll consider applying to find out more so you can see for yourself whether this could be the next step in your career.

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Who are we looking for?

This is a programme for women who want to work as an Instructor, developing young people, within The Outward Bound Trust in the future. If you identify as non-binary or transgender and the purpose and themes of the course resonate with you, we’d love to receive your application.

You should have completed a minimum of one out of three of Summer Mountain Leader Training, Rock Climb Instructor (or SPA) Training, and/or Paddlesports Leader Training (or equivalent) and have significant personal experience / logbook time in another, by the course start date. There is no maximum level of qualification. It is desirable to have 12-18 months experience working with young people in any context.

The programme could be for you if:

  • You have completed some of the core qualifications listed above, want a job with Outward Bound and are keen to be part of a supportive community as you start with The Trust.
  • You have thought about working at Outward Bound and are not sure if you are ready, or it feels like a big step from what you’ve previously been doing.
  • You have previous experience in working with young people (e.g. education or youth work), are hoping to change direction by developing technical skills to work in the outdoor context and would like to gain valuable experience by working at Outward Bound in the future.
  • You want to experience being led by women further on in their career journey, while sharing your skills and being a role model for others too.
  • You want to be part of the movement towards Outward Bound and the outdoor sector becoming more diverse, inclusive and welcoming to everyone in society.

Depending on your start point, and aspirations there will be different pathways into employment following the programme.

What is it?

A 10 week outdoor instructor development programme, based at our Loch Eil Centre. The course will include the opportunity to work on the skills required to be an Outward Bound Instructor. This includes technical (mountain, rock and water) skills as well as developing your intra-personal (self-awareness) and inter-personal (leadership & group) skills.

There will be time working with groups of young people alongside experienced instructors and structured mentoring. Your course lead will work with you as a group over the 10 weeks to ensure you have maximum opportunity to progress and work towards your goals.

This year, Outward Bound are hosting the Women in Mountain Training Conference at Ullswater, you will have the opportunity to attend this as part of the programme. We are investing in the programme because we want more women and marginalised genders to be motivated to come and work with us in the future, to inspire and enable the thousands of young people who are impacted by an Outward Bound course each year.

What does it include?
  • Focused mountain and water skills weeks consolidating the skills you need to lead groups of young people.
  • Working on adventures with groups of young people alongside experienced instructors.
  • 1:1 Mentoring.
  • Understanding leadership and psychology of personal development.
  • Individualised opportunities to work on your logbooks, gain group experience for the qualifications you’re working towards, upskill, refresh and consolidate in the areas you need to develop.
  • Accommodation, food and kit provided for the 10 weeks.
  • Career advice, planning and signposting towards relevant roles to progress within Outward Bound.
  • The opportunity to contribute to and be part of Outward Bound’s journey to being a more diverse and inclusive organisation.
  • A place at the Women in Mountain Training Conference in November.

16 September 2024 to 22 November 2024.

What do we ask from you?

While this is a development programme and not formal employment, so that you and your peers can make the most of the experience, we ask the following from you:

  • You commit fully to all 10 weeks of the course not requiring any significant time off, except in exceptional unforeseen circumstances.
  • You show up on time and prepared for sessions.
  • You operate with integrity and professional standards as you will be taking part in centre life alongside other staff, young people and visiting clients.
What is the programme cost?

The course is kindly supported by funding from Berghaus and is therefore heavily subsidised. To support the increasing costs of running this programme we are asking that you pay £250, and you provide a £250 deposit which will be returned to you in the 12 months following the programme by contributing towards the instructor qualifications that you will need to work at Outward Bound.

So, a total of £500 to secure your place. Instalments can be arranged if this helps and if finding the money is a financial barrier, please email katherine.obrien@outwardbound.org.uk to find out more about means tested bursary funding which may be made available. The fee is non-refundable. If you change your mind about joining before the course, or decide it is not for you once starting, we will reinvest the money into development of the programme.

Where will we stay and is food provided?

Shared accommodation will be provided for the duration of the course (max two people per room). Food is provided at the centre when groups are onsite, generally this is from Monday lunch to Friday lunch. Outside of these times you will need to self-cater, facilities provided at your accommodation.

How do I apply?

Applications will go live on International Women’s Day, Friday 8 March 2024.

You should send a CV to Kate O’Brien at katherine.obrien@outwardbound.org.uk, and click on the link below to fill in the application questions, by 5pm on 8 April 2024. If you have further questions feel free to email or call ahead of applying. Kate can be reached on 07765221373, during normal office hours.

We will invite successful applicants to an “Is it for you?” day on the 11 May at the Ullswater Centre, in the Lake District. You will be notified if you have been selected for this by Friday 12 April.

If selected for the programme, you will need to undergo an enhanced level PVG check ahead of the course starting. The cost of this will be covered by Outward Bound.

What are the opportunities within the Outward Bound Trust after the programme?

During the course we will work with you to identity your career pathway within Outward Bound, desired location and timescales. This may involve being signposted towards paid seasonal pastoral contracts, an Instructor Development position, or an Instructor role anywhere in The Trust. See here for more info about working with The Trust and where our centres are based: Why work at Outward Bound?

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I met wonderful role models, worked collaboratively with an amazing cohort of likeminded women, and perhaps most significantly gained a deeper understanding of myself. It was an incredible opportunity that's truly altered my mindset, and given me the tools to progress.
2019 course participant