/ fast track courses worth it?

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Hans - on 08 Sep 2013
Hi all

Just deciding whether it's better to get tickets intensively or go at a personal slower pace. Lots of courses offer ML, BCU etc etc, but then again do employers look for experience over rafts of qualifications? I guess you make more contacts on a month long course somewhere which is also important.

Anybody out there done a fast track course? I have had great times building up my logbook over the past four years across all disciplines but cringe to think of the cost involved. Intensive courses certainly seem cheaper!

bust3r - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to Hans:

I spoke about those to a certain MIA I know, his opinion was that there is no substitute to experience and this is something the fast-track courses do not give as much as they perhaps should therefore leaving people with the same qualifications "inferior" to those who chose the long path.

I guess it makes sense if you know you meet the demands of whatever may be thrown at you dutring your career.

ML - wise What I would do personally is contact some outdoor companies and ask for work experience - sometimes they are willing to pay for accomodation and food expenses for an extra pair of hands. If you arrange that for a multi-activity camp you will be able to speak to different award holders and see how they do it whilst getting on the job experience
SteveD - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to Hans: Fast track courses scare me a bit, there is no substitute for experience.

Someone I knew a few years ago learned anything very quickly and became a very talented canoeist. She was a naturally gifted athlete and you only had to demonstrate something and she could do it perfectly. She quickly became a Senior Instructor and was disappointing when I voiced some reservations. Within a year she had given up instructing after almost losing a paddler when she lost control of a group river paddling.

I blamed her assessors who, in IMO, were blinded by her technical ability that she had picked up in a matter of weeks. Allowing her to take control of groups with too little experience to back up her skill.

I see a lot of people that have gone through a course and can tie one knot, belay one way, etc. basically building their experience whilst in charge of a group rather than assisting.
Carolyn - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to Hans:

OTOH, if you already have a reasonable amount of experience, a fast track course might be a convenient way to pick up the qualifications.

But fundamentally I agree, there's no substitute for decent personal experience.
highclimber - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to Hans: this is from PyB's info on their Fast track scheme:

As part of a personalised programme, you may complete coaching and leadership training courses for the following CWA, SPA, WGL, ML Summer, REC First Aid at Work, BCU/UKCC Level 1 Certificate and British Cycling Level 2 in Mountain Bike Leadership Training.
For those with a greater range of experience, and perhaps some of the above qualifications, it may be possible to work towards or complete some of the following - ML Winter, IML training, MIA training, BCU/UKCC Level 2 Certificate, BCU WW Safety and Rescue and REC First Aid Trainer.

take note of the words in bold - they are not guaranteeing anything. nearly £10k for 4 months. I'll take you climbing/walking/paddling/mountain biking every day you wanted for half that if you're interested!
muppetfilter - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to Carolyn: Sadly with fast track courses you end up with a less rounded and unsuitable candidate out there with a ticket and no idea of how to do the job. The great thing about the conventional way around is that it tends to weed out the chaff who splash the cash to get a step ahead of the hard work that goes to make a quality well rounded instructor.
Carolyn - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to muppetfilter:

I don't think I'm disagreeing? Certainly what happens in the majority of cases; I was suggesting if someone already had the personal experience (and probably some leadership experience), but wanted to collect the relevant tickets in a short period, it might be a way to do so. But probably cheaper to just get yourself organised and book training/assesments independently....
t_hume - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to muppetfilter:
> Sadly with fast track courses you end up with a less rounded and unsuitable candidate out there with a ticket and no idea of how to do the job.

How does an unsuitable candidate with no idea how to do the job pass any assessment????
highclimber - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to t_hume: Because there is no actual requirement for you to have ANY group experience before you present yourself for assessment so it is conceivable that someone could pass all the elements without ever having to deal with a hard-to-control group of teenagers on a taster climbing session or indeed how to even run a taster session effectively.
t_hume - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to highclimber: Final bullet point under "Experience Requirements"
Andy Peak 1 - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to Hans: The P.Y.B fast track was very good for me, althowe I am not a outdoor instructor now I have taken the lessons that i learnt ther and aplyd them to the rest of my life and now doing well.
andyathome on 09 Sep 2013 - []
In reply to highclimber:
For SPA and CWA you are incorrect. There are exactly those requirements.
Hans - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to Hans: interesting responses. The reason why I was seriously considering one was because I get bored/distracted with adding to the logbook sometimes. Instead of doing micro nav, I might want to just do some sport climbing. A course forces you to do something constructive.

But then again, I look at all the people I met and the places I went to to get the SPA, which has gained my sole source of income for the past three years, and I understand how much more enjoyable and educational the long way round is.

My gut says 'don't' so I won't, but it's tempting.
highclimber - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to t_hume:
> (In reply to highclimber) Final bullet point under "Experience Requirements"

From the SPA handbook:

3.3 Supervision
Considerable experience of novice supervision should be gained between training and
assessment in an assistant capacity alongside more experienced supervisors and

'Should' is the key word in this.
t_hume - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to highclimber: And in the same hand book this paragraph appears...

"• Candidates should not present themselves for assessment until they have:
1. led a minimum of 40 climbs, outdoors on leader-placed protection. A substantial number of these must be at least Severe grade and they should be on a variety of rock types.
2. assisted with the supervision of climbing for approximately 20 sessions at a variety of locations, some outside and some indoors (a session is a half day or evening).

I see what you are saying, in that perhaps there is room for individual interpretation of what the handbook says, but, if you were running an SPA assessment and a candidate presented a logbook with no supervisory/assisting/shadowing experience, would you pass them? Do you know any assessors that would?
t_hume - on 09 Sep 2013
In reply to Hans: I feel we may have strayed slightly from the OP.

I think whether a fast track course is worth it is totally dependent on individual circumstances and what you want out of a course.

If you are considering a course then speak to the providers. What do they think you will get out of it in terms of bits of paper and other experience? Just remember that they're also sales people. I would advise, if a course offers the world then it will probably fall short. If the possible outcomes sound a bit more down to earth it might not be a bad option.

gi - on 10 Sep 2013
In reply to Hans:

Hi there! I think it is defiantly worth considering doing an intensive course, though perhaps its worth thinking of them part of your development as an instructor rather than "I do this and then I'm set".

I looked at the PYB and and having met some people who had done it or worked there decided it wasn't for me, I did do the Instructor Training Course at Bicton Collage though.

It was six months all over europe with low ratios and much of the course was about gaining experience i.e.. SPA and ML trainings were included but we also spent a week sport climbing in spain and 2 weeks ice climbing and skiing in Norway. Did these contribute to the qualifications? Not directly but they were massively useful.. I ended up working in Norway for almost 2 years because of contacts made during the course.
And this is what can be most useful about the courses, you are exposed to so many people in the outdoor industry and make so many contacts that finding work and getting more experience becomes much easier.

The course I did cost £6500 and was six months, it included all food, accommodation, travel and then qualifications which included ML training, SPA training, UKCC Level 1, First Aid, Level 2 power boat, Local cave and mine leader training, WWSR, CST, 2 diplomas in ice climbing (Norwegian) and various BCU star awards depending on ability..
I think there were a couple more bit and bobs but it's early and I can't quite think of them! I think it was awesome value and struggle to think of how you could afford to do the above on your own. Sadly the course no longer runs.

My approach to the course was that having worked in centres and climbed for quite awhile I wanted to progress and build on the skills and experience I already had, plus having been hit by a car some years before and the insurance money coming through just before the course made it viable.
It has made it possible for be to be relatively young but experienced and qualified and hopefully able to keep learning and progressing while being able to support myself.

I have done the 'living at a centre on £60 a week in the hope of qualifications gig 'and often it is frustrating as you'll be doing the same work as those with the qualifications but for a third of the wage.. and in my experience the employer totally failed to provide any kind courses for us and I came back with less money than I went away with.
I'd do it again as it was awesome fun and I made fantastic friends but from a development point of view it would have been better to spend my time else where.

I think if I were looking for a course or centre at the moment I'd take a look at Blue Peris who have a pretty good program for trainee instructors/assistants which pays (I think) and provide a structured progression through the awards.

Hope this helps! Sorry its such a long one!

jezb1 - on 10 Sep 2013
In reply to gi: Good post!

They are a mixed bunch these courses, some good, some bad and all have their differences.

I run the SPA & ML side of one in Cornwall so I'm slightly biased in favour of them.

They're not sold on a zero to hero basis. They are just a start, giving people a bit of experience in some key activities. There is (in ours) a lot of background stuff to like interview skills, presentation skills, child protection stuff, legislation etc etc.

I know lots of people who have done these courses, ranging from some have nothing to do with the industry to an MIA - WML with his own successful company.

They are what you make of them.

I used to think they were a waste of time, but I was looking at them wrong. Make sure you look at the individual course details though, for example on ours there is no opportunity to SPA/ML assessment, only training.
Hans - on 10 Sep 2013
In reply to gi: Hi Giles,

I think the point you make about the courses being seen more as CPD than 'right I'm set' is absolutely correct. Fundamentally, after these responses and considerations I think it's best for me to continue the long route which has so far been extremely productive although narrowly focused. I would like to be outside more with groups but it is a minor complaint. I genuinely love 'herding punters up top ropes' as it has sometimes been referred to on this site.

Maybe all it needs is for me to stop writing this, turn off the PC and go consolidate my ML training right now.


Carolyn - on 10 Sep 2013
In reply to Hans:

If you're vaguely close to being ready, booking an assessment a few months off can be good way of encouraging yourself to go out doing micro nav rather than nipping out climbing instead...

Says she who has at least a couple of awards she's never got round to doing that with ;-)

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