1. Home
  2. Members
  3. Jobs
  4. Events
  5. Good Practice
  6. Awards
  7. News
  8. Help

Outdoor Trailblazer Apprenticeships

Creating new opportunities for the outdoor sector

Outdoor Trailblazer Apprenticeships


Apprenticeships are available to businesses of all sizes and sectors and can last from 12 months to four years, depending on the type or level of the programme. Their operation and funding is a devolved matter and so different processes apply whether you are based in England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland. A change in apprenticeship funding and management in England offered employers the chance to develop new Trailblazer Apprenticeship Standards and the Outdoor Sector has taken advantage of the opportunity.

The Outdoor Activity Instructor Apprenticeship Standard launched last autumn is now being delivered in England – providing a much-needed route to funded training for new entrants into the sector. The work put in to developing the apprenticeship standard has also been of great value to IOL in developing a complimentary Occupational Standard for the role of Outdoor Activity Instructor that can be referenced by any Training, Education or Awarding Organisation or Governing Body.

A number of employers expressed a desire for a further Outdoor Apprenticeship appropriate for more complex roles. This IOL page is for the Employer-Led group to share key details about developing the Outdoor Learning Specialist (working title) apprenticeship.


Outdoor Activity Instructor Apprenticeship

The NEW Outdoor Activity Instructor Apprenticeship focuses on training individuals who are new to the sector to run safe and enjoyable activity sessions with children and adults. The standard is available in England and is at Level 3, lasts 12-18 months, and attracts up to £6000 of funding towards off-the-job training and end-point assessment per apprentice.

Built over 2018-2019 years by a wide range of outdoor employers, the result is a fit-for-purpose funded training route for entry level roles across the breadth of outdoor instructional work in England. The group of 49 employers represented a range and variety of businesses and products prevalent in the sector and were led by Employer Chair Mark Lavington (PGL) with guidance and project management from Neal Anderson (IOL).

View the IOL Guide to Outdoor Activity Instructor Apprenticeships


New Apprenticeship - Outdoor Learning Specialist

We are very pleased to let you know that the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) have approved the proposal for an Outdoor Learning Specialist Apprenticeship following submission by the Outdoor Trailblazer Employer Group and IOL.

A project working group have developed the role profile, duties and knowledge skills and behaviours for the occupation of Outdoor Learning Specialist. It is set at Level 5 and expected to take 24 months to achieve. To begin this apprenticeship, employees will be expected to be able to demonstrate the knowledge, skills and behaviours of an Outdoor Activity Instructor.

The broad purpose of an Outdoor Learning Specialist is the design, planning and delivery of programmes that provide progressive learning and change using outdoor activities and experiences.


January - April 2021 - Refinement of the Apprenticeship Standard and writing the Assessment Plan

The project trailblazer group have been working hard behind the scenes with the IfATE to fine tune the the Apprenticeship standard ready for submission within the current government guidelines. There have been challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the speed of feedback from the IfATE however the trailblazer team have continued positively to develop an assessment plan for the standard. All documents are currently at the INTERNAL REVIEW stage with IfATE. For those closely following the project, the main changes you will see are:

  1. List of duties is now re ordered and reworded so the phrases tie up with the KSB’s and Assessment Plan.
  2. KSB’s updated - major edits here to comply with IfATE rules and uphold the intention set by employers.
  3. New mapping of KSB’s to duties.
  4. New assessment plan with three methods of assessment - presentation, observation, professional discussion.
  5. New grading descriptors (these are at first draft stage and awaiting IfATE feedback).



If you have any comments, questions or feedback to share on the Apprenticeship Standard or Assessment plan, please email Neal Anderson, Apprenticeship Project Manager.

Although this apprenticeship will be accessible to employers based in England, we are interested in the views from employers in all Home Nations. IOL will use this standard and consultation as a stating point to define the National Occupational Standard for Outdoor Learning Specialist that can be referenced by all employers, education & training providers, and Welsh and Scottish governments when reviewing and updating their apprenticeships.



December 2020 - Sector consultation on the Apprenticeship Standard

Consultation - December 3-17th 2020

All employers from across the outdoor learning world were invited to review the proposed standard and give the project team comments. The responses were received from across the sector and these have all be reviewed and considered for the latest version of the Occupational Standard. Overall, over 80% of respondents felt the role profile, duties, knowledge, skills and behaviours described the role of outdoor learning specialist, 57% felt the 30 month duration was about right and 39% felt it could be shorter, and 70% of employers committed to backing the further development of this apprenticeship.

Spring & Summer 2020 - IfATE Approved proposal, standard in development

February 2020 - The Outdoor Trailblazer Employer Group and IOL submitted their proposal for an Outdoor Learning Specialist Apprenticeship to The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education. Following scrutiny by the IfATE and a presentation by the Chair and Project manager to the approvals panel we are delighted to have received approval to continue developing this NEW apprenticeship standard.

In the Summer and Autumn of 2020 the project working group met to carefully define and refine the Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours required for the role with the aim of having a standard that fitted the needs of all employers of outdoor learning specialists access the sector.

January 2020 - Sector Consultation

Online consultations involved the whole sector in ensuring the suitability and relevance of the proposed apprenticeship. The consultation survey ran online between 24 Jan and 6 Feb 2020 and was open to all connected to the sector. As well as all members of the Institute for Outdoor Learning (IOL) we members of the other representative member organisations in Outdoor Learning were invited to contribute, as well as open invitations on social media and the IOL website. We have consulted with, and gained feedback from, members of:

  • Institute for Outdoor Learning
  • Association of Heads of Outdoor Education Centres
  • Outdoor Education Advisors Panel
  • British Activity Providers Association

We had a positive response with 69 contributions and a 75% level of support for the occupational profile and duties as presented. We had a good number of helpful suggestions and the project working group reviewed and considered all of these carefully. Some were included in the revised occupational profile and duties, and others will be addressed when we define the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to fulfil each duty.

Project Working Group

Work to date has been led by: Outdoor Apprenticeships Project Manager - Neal Anderson (IOL), Outdoor Apprenticeships Trailblazer Group Chair - Mark Lavington (PGL), Outdoor Apprenticeships Trailblazer Design Group - Loel Collins (Plas y Brenin), Marc Oakley (Outward Bound), Janine Maddison (Field Studies Council), Dr Roger Hopper (Heatree Activity Centre). This group have met regularly, reviewed job adverts/descriptions and written the occupational profile and duties for review and comment by the sector. Based on experience developing the Outdoor Activity Instructor apprenticeship, the sector supported a using small design group to craft the apprenticeship proposal that went out for consultation with the sector.

Project Group 1: This group actively contributed to development, review and support of the apprenticeship proposal. Following approval, members will attend meetings and work with the design group to complete the KSB’s, prepare the assessment plan, and obtain costings for the training and end point assessments.

Project Group 2: In addition to Project Group 1, this group support the apprenticeship proposal and have asked to be kept up to date via email and be invited to comment on developments.

If you wish to contribute to developments email us and let us know your name, the organisation you are representing, and the name of the Trailblazer group you wish to join.

View the Outdoor Apprenticeships Trailblazer Group Membership

Project Funding and Contributing Supporters

Following a comprehensive review of costs, it was clear the funding model and approach for the outdoor activity instructor apprenticeship required a significant investment of Mark Lavingtons' time by PGL and voluntary effort by Neal Anderson (IOL Professional Standards Manager) way beyond what was sustainable for a 2nd project). Neither IOL or PGL could support the development time/costs without support from employers, education/training organisations and other interested parties across the sector.

A crowdfunding approach was taken in order to get the project underway.

Pledges totalling £15,800 were received from Outward Bound, PGL, The Scout Association, Blackwell Adventure, Inspiring Learning, Lindley Educational Trust, Field Studies Council, Youth Hostels Association, Peak District National Park.

IOL have pledged to provide a proportion of the IOL Professional Standards Managers time to input into standards and ensure alignment with workforce developments.

The project budget focuses solely on what is absolutely necessary to get the Apprenticeship designed and approved. The funding will cover:

  • Creation of the Trailblazer bid to design and submit new apprenticeship standard
  • Creation of the Standard, Assessment Plan and costings

Should delays or significant unexpected requirements or changes occur the Trailblazer group would have to review the project funds and expenses. It is likely further funding will need to be sought from employers in the sector. Further pledges from employers, education/training organisations and other interested parties would also enable the project to include more in-person consultation and informational - promotional literature.

All contributions are welcome, and all contributors will be named as contributing supporters. The Institute for Outdoor Learning hold the funds on behalf of the employer group. Payments are managed by the Project Chair with oversight/reporting to the Working Group. To make your contribution contact Louise Keir who will arrange an invoice for payment.

View the Outdoor Apprenticeships Project Funding Arrangements


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the relationship between IOL and the Employer Led Apprenticeship?

IOL as the professional body in the sector are working in partnership the employer led initiative. The Employer Group has asked Neal Anderson from IOL to take a project management role in helping that group consult and produce its standards, assessment thinking and governance thoughts for submission to BIS. The Institute will use the apprenticeship standards developed by employers to inform an update and revision of some of our professional standards.

Find out more about the IOL Professional Standards Update

How can I get involved in the Employer Led Apprenticeship Development?

If you are an employer and would like further information or to chat about the opportunity to get involved please contact:

Mark Lavington
Employer Led Trailblazer Chair
PGL. Manager – HR External Partnerships.
Mobile: 07977 987712
Office switchboard: 0333 321 2100 - Email.

How can I get involved in the IOL Professional Standards Development?

You can follow progress on the IOL website or get in touch with Neal directly to discuss your thoughts and comments:

Neal Anderson
IOL Professional Standards Manager
Mobile: 07899 856518 - Email.


Warwick Mill Business Centre, Warwick Bridge, Carlisle, Cumbria, CA4 8RR

+44 (0)1228 564580



What we collect and why

Name, Email Address, Phone Number (optional). Only if you provide it to us in order to contact you or to use our services.

Your Privacy

Who we share with

We will never sell your personal data to 3rd parties. We may share your personal data with our suppliers in order to provide our online and member services to you.

Copyright 2023 Institute for Outdoor Learning Terms Of Use Privacy Statement
Back To Top