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Occupational Standards

Supporting education, training and giving people control of their career

IOL is working with employers in the sector to develop a clear definition of the sector’s professional workforce.


This work began following a review of IOL Professional Standards in 2016 and has been boosted by managing the creation of a new employer-led Outdoor Apprenticeship. Occupational standards are a core part of training and assessing the competence of outdoor professionals.


The need for Occupational Standards

  • Defined standards for occupations in the sector allow us to promote career pathways, give consistency in professional training and help us to recruit and retain talent in the sector.
  • Without occupational standards giving a common language, we have no insight or figures on the skills or numbers of people employed in the sector, and can’t track any changes or trends.
  • Educators and trainers don’t have a common reference point to align what they offer with the skills and knowledge employers want.
  • We don’t attract talent to the sector because we can’t articulate the breadth of opportunities available in it.
  • We lose talent because we can’t describe and offer people pathways where they can take control of their career progression.
  • We don’t use money wisely - we retrain staff because we don’t have a way to recognise the full breadth of knowledge and skills they have.
  • We are unlikely to be a chartered professional body without a set of relevant occupational standards and identified career pathways.

What IOL is doing to support the sector

  1. IOL aim to reference or publish an Occupational Standard for roles where a significant number of employers recognise a common definition of the skills, knowledge and behaviours required. A DRAFT Occupational Map is below.
  2. A number of specific roles already have occupational standards that are defined and accepted; e.g. specific adventure sports, management, etc. There is no intention for IOL to do anything more than reference the existing standard.
  3. IOL will focus attention on holistic roles within the sector. We have started with the role of Outdoor Activity Instructor - based on the apprenticeship standard developed with the support of over 40 employers.
  4. Occupational Standards will be added to, modified or removed in order to ensure they represent employers needs in a professional and skilled workforce. They are living documents.
  5. The next standard in development is for an Outdoor Programme Leader (working title) whose job role is to develop individuals and groups over a linked programme of activity sessions whilst exercising leadership and decision-making skills to operate away from immediate help and support. The initial work will be shaped by the Trailblazer Employer Group



Outdoor Learning Occupations
IOL Occupational Standard - Outdoor Activity Instructor



The work is very much ongoing

The Institute welcomes all comments on the DRAFT Occupational Map and Standards. Contact Neal Anderson, IOL Professional Standards Manager to share your views.




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