Building an exceptional team: Outward Bound Canada’s staff training sessions
Outward Bound Canada’s (OBC) staff members are the heart and soul of our organization. They play a crucial role in delivering impactful and life-changing programs to youth across Canada each year. That’s why we regularly host in-depth staff training sessions to build a strong community and prepare our team for anything we encounter in the wilderness.
As we gear up for our upcoming summer expeditions, we once again had a blast at our May trainings. Now we want to share with you the unique aspects that make our training sessions the most anticipated times of the year for our team.
Creating community and understanding
One of the main goals of our staff training is to create a sense of community among the instructional team, full-time and seasonal employees, and administrative staff so that we all understand and appreciate the different aspects and roles involved in delivering an OBC course. For example, through these trainings, seasonal staff – such as the instructors who join us on expeditions each summer – gain valuable insight into the work of our National Expedition Support Team, which handles sales, risk management, and administration, and how we all need to work together to run a successful season.
We also provide a comprehensive overview of what it’s like to work at Outward Bound, such as equipment procurement, paperwork management, and payroll. By explaining to our staff how and why we do things the way we do, we empower them to deliver quality programs and get the support they need from course directors, managers, and back-office staff.
In the training, we also test the instructors’ competency in teaching the OBC curriculum and leading courses in the medium they’ll be working in, e.g., hiking, sea kayaking, canoeing, etc. – this is also a great opportunity for the team to do some of the activities we love most!
Topics and training sessions
Our staff training topics are varied and tailored to the instructors in each region. In Ontario, for example, training spans 10 days, including five facility-based days focused on skill development. We also host separate trainings for new assistant instructors and returning lead instructors to ensure all staff receive the specific knowledge and tools they need to excel in their positions.
We use a variety of strategies and techniques to make training interactive, engaging, and effective, and are always looking for new ideas and presenters to bring fresh perspectives to our training. We encourage senior or lead instructors to share their expertise and experience by stepping up and presenting, which not only enhances their teaching skills but also fosters a sense of ownership and investment in the training process.
Our training differs from other outdoor education programs in that it prepares instructors to teach the specific OBC curriculum, not just outdoor activities – this is one of the reasons students can earn high school credits upon completion of many of our courses. This unique aspect allows instructors to practice the curriculum and receive guidance from experienced trainers before implementing it in the courses.
Evaluation and success measures
Post-training debriefing is critical to assessing the impact and effectiveness of our training. Therefore, we use exercises to get valuable feedback from participants and gain insight into their satisfaction. In most regions, we also conduct a post-training survey, similar to the survey we send to our participants.
We also have a structured process for promoting instructors from assistant to lead positions taking into account their field experience, peer feedback, and participation in seasonal training. These evaluations and assessments help us improve the trainings and ensure their effectiveness.
Basically, OBC training runs similar to a regular course so that instructors understand the nuances before they go into the field, especially if they’re brand new staff.
Cultivating excellence for transformative experiences
At OBC, our team is our most valuable asset. They’re the ones who make the magic happen and create lifelong change through their care and attention to our programs. That’s why training our staff is a top priority, even outside of the summer season. Throughout the year, all regions participate in customized training sessions adapted to the changing seasons and program focus, as well as virtual training on OBC curriculum and course design. We strive to enhance the incredible skills of our instructors and foster shared field experiences that continue to shape our organization.
With our commitment to continuous growth and learning, our comprehensive training programs give our instructors the expertise they need to excel in any situation. By investing in their development, we empower them to deliver exceptional programs that create real change. We’re proud to contribute to the quality of our programs by encouraging and supporting our dedicated staff to create unforgettable outdoor experiences that enable youth to discover their true potential and harness the power of adventure.
want to join the Outward Bound Canada team?
We’re hiring! Check out our open positions.