Who are you and what does your role involve?
I’m Richard Cook, Instructor of Outdoor Adventure at Shuttleworth College. I work with learners 16+ on BTEC Academic Qualifications in Outdoor Adventure programs, ranging from Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) to Level 5 (Second year of degree equivalent); I predominantly focus on practical delivery but also classroom based theory lessons. The primary aim of the practical program is to develop the students into outdoor instructors to be able to work in the diverse outdoor sector. The course aims to give the students, experiences of as many areas of the outdoor sector as possible. With students going onto work in all areas of the outdoor sector for example locally with Grafham Water Centre, nationally with Hampshire Outdoor Centres and internationally with a number of students now undertaking successful careers in the Superyacht Industry. I deliver a range of activities from canoeing and kayaking to powerboating and rock climbing as well as organising residential trips both nationally and internationally.
How did you get in to Outdoor Learning?
I was in Scouting from an early age which is when I realised I didn’t want to end up working in a desk job. After A Levels I decided I’d had enough of traditional education and applied for an Outdoor Course at Pencoed in South Wales. From there I became a Trainee Instructor at Longtown OEC, then an Instructor at Outward Bound Aberdovey, before becoming the Senior Instructor for Outward Bound Bermuda. In between these posts I also worked as a casual Freelance Instructor in South Wales, as a Barman, Store Trainer for Cotswold Outdoor Retail, the Go Ape Constructions Team and as a Go Ape Rescue Trainer & Assessor.
On returning from Bermuda at the end of 2010 and looking for the next development in my career, I started working in Further Education as an outdoor instructor. Until then my highest academic qualification was a Level 3 BTEC and A Levels, but it was my vocational qualifications and experiences that counted. Once on post I worked toward a Certificate in Education (teaching qualification) alongside my teaching role. In 2015 I started working for the Bedford College Group initially delivering their outdoor provision on the Public Services course; I then went full time on the outdoor course in 2017 at Shuttleworth College where I now lead the practical program for over 100 students on Level 2 to Level 5 courses.
What do you love about what you do?
I get to coach learners over a sustained period of 1 to 5 years depending on when they join and leave us. This enable me the instruct to a much higher level than you would in many outdoor centre posts. For instance I coach learners who have never put on a climbing harness, spray deck or kill cord to a level where they can achieve a MT CWI (Climbing Wall Instructor Award), BC Core Coach (Old Level 2 Canoe Kayak Coach) or RYA Safety Boat. I also love the variety of trips we get to go on, (personally this keeps me up to date), but also seeing the learners apply skills they have learnt and then realising that they want to start a career in the outdoors because of the experiences they have with us.