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Activity centre jobs

What is an activity centre?
Multi-activity day camps and activity centres often describe themselves as summer camps but they are different from each other. While both are likely to run special summer programmes for young people - hence the ‘summer camp’ description - activity centres are more likely to be open year round and use their own, permanent sites (companies that run multi-activity day camps often use the grounds of well-equipped schools and universities).

Activity centres are also focused around adrenalin-based outdoor, adventure sports which challenge those who attend. At an activity centre, you are more likely to find activities such as abseiling, caving and gorge walking rather than a game of football or a session of tennis.
Although some activity centres do offer the opportunity for day visitors to go along and take part in an adventure day, most centres are residential, and programmes are run over a number of days. Guests and staff stay on the site, either in tents, cabins or rooms, and meals are prepared and eaten on site.

As a student or graduate working in an activity centre, it will not just be a case of working with children and young people. Some centres, such as Robinwood work closely with primary schools and run residential courses for 7-11 year olds throughout the year, but many activity centres work with a broad range of people, offering age-specific, residential adventure programmes.

Many activity centres are private businesses. They will market themselves to young adults for birthday parties, stag and hen parties and they will also offer tailored courses to corporate companies who would like to send staff on team building programmes. In the holidays, some also run special family weekends and short breaks where families can choose a programme with adventure sports to suit them.
What Is The Purpose Of An Activity Centre?
An activity centre is generally all about the thrill of the outdoors in a risk-assessed, controlled environment. Especially for younger children, when they attend an activity centre, it is possible they have never stayed away from home, overnight, without their parents before. It’s also highly likely they have never previously taken part in any of the adventure sports an activity centre offers. Having said that, for all ages, not just young children, activity centres are all about personal challenge.

An activity centre is where people come to conquer fears, to take risks they never thought they would have to and to increase confidence in an adrenalin-based environment. Activity centres are where people of all ages complete their tailored programme and leave with increased resilience and a true sense of achievement (well, it’s not every day that you get to consult your wits before placing your complete trust in ropes and team mates and then putting your back to the edge of a high, vertical craggy rock face, lying back horizontally and then abseiling down to ground level).

Whatever the age of the participant, programmes are designed to demonstrate the importance of teamwork and trust in your team mates, as well as bringing to the fore, courage people didn’t think they had in them. As a member of staff at an activity centre, your job is to encourage and support children, young people and adults in completing these difficult but fun challenges and sending them away with heightened confidence.
The Venture Centre activities
Which Adventure Sports Are On Offer At Activity Centres?
This section will give students and graduates looking for seasonal, part time or gap year work in activity centres a general idea of the types of adventure activities on offer throughout the various centres and therefore some clues as to the type of jobs that might be available, and the sort of environment activity centre staff work in.

Urban-based
There are urban-based activity centres that offer day programmes to schools, youth groups and corporate companies and these places tend to have indoor facilities such as indoor rock climbing walls, pools for water sports such as the development of canoe and kayak skills and some even have ski slopes for skiing and snowboarding lessons. If you are looking for part time evening and weekend work in an activity centre, these local businesses are probably the most suitable.

Countryside and Coastal Outdoor Activity Centres
As stated above, the vast majority of activity centres run residential programmes that are based around outdoor adventure sports and, as such, tend to be housed in hilly countryside locations or more remote, coastal areas. The programmes these centres run are very much tailored to the nearby, natural surroundings.

For example, a centre that is located by the sea, a lake or a river is likely to be in a position to offer opportunities for its guests to take part in a variety of watersports. Scuba diving, windsurfing, coasteering, canoeing, kayaking, paddle skills, raft building, sailing, powerboat driving and river expeditions, are all activities that people could take part in at activity centres.

Activity centres based in remote countryside and mountainous areas will be in a position to offer outdoor pursuits such as abseiling, mountain and rock climbing, rock scrambling, orienteering, gorge walking and both vertical and horizontal caving. And if it is an outward bound type of programme, all of this could be coupled with a bit of camp building and wild camping while learning about bushcraft, more about the natural surroundings and the importance of environmental awareness.

Other adventure activities offered by many outdoor activity centres include zip wires, high ropes, BMXing, mountain biking, track cycling, quad biking and assault courses.

Of course, there has to be some down time where guests and staff can catch their breath, rest their bodies and develop concentration and hand eye coordination skills. Common sports in many outdoor activity centres include archery and air rifle target practice and team development tasks that require more thought as opposed to action and adventure.

Some activity centre companies will have multiple sites situated around the UK and Europe (Acorn have sites in Wales, Spain, Italy and France, and PGL operate across the UK as well as France and Spain). These sites are usually situated in places like the Lake District, Peak District and Snowdonia. European centres will also be based in rural areas. For camps with multiple sites, this means they are in a position to offer a full range of outdoor activities and tailor each of their programmes to best fit the location of a particular centre. Which centre guests attend depends on the type of adventure sports they want to concentrate on.
What Type Of Roles Are Available In UK Activity Centres?
Perhaps the first job that springs to mind when thinking about work in activity centres is that of the activity instructor. There are different levels of instructor and their titles vary depending on which company they work for but the roles are essentially the same.

The assistant instructor generally has a broad remit, working in the site shops, supervising children at night, shadowing instructors to learn more about the role and learning first aid skills.

The role of the instructor is also varied, depending on their area of expertise, the age of the guests they are working with and the type of programme they are carrying out. Instructors work mainly with the guests and the work is very much hands on.

The senior instructor is obviously in charge of the those below them and is therefore also responsible for making sure goals are met and that staff have the correct training, equipment and provisions for carrying out the tasks assigned to them.
More senior management roles in activity centres involve carrying out safety checks, mentoring staff, holding staff meetings and appraisals, ensuring staff professional development is taking place and liaising with outside companies and sponsors.

Of course, activity centres don’t run purely on adventure and adrenalin and in any successful company that specialises in activities such as this, there will always be roles available for those who wish to work behind the scenes. So, as well as activity instructors and management staff, activity centres also recruit sales and recruitment staff, trainers, staff for head office, administration assistants, drivers, bar and retail staff, kitchen assistants, cooks and chefs and maintenance staff.

As you can see, outdoor pursuits jobs in activity centres are many and varied.
What Work Is Involved?
Working in an activity centre is not easy. It’s hard, often physical work, long hours and in a majority of cases, you will be living on site. Before you allow those two sentences to send you off running a mile into the distance, never to consider work in an activity centre ever again, also know that your hard work is going to bring perhaps unrivalled reward, whichever role you are working in.

When a participant leaves an activity centre having had the time of their lives, having gained a newfound confidence, having conquered many fears, having bonded with team mates they weren’t too concerned about previously - any of these attributes can be applied to children, young people and adults; the age of the person is irrelevant - that will have been down to you and your fellow staff members. You’re going to get a lot of personal reward, personal satisfaction and a lot of thanks. A job in an activity centre is not a thankless job.

Students and graduates working in activity instructor jobs will be highly confident and motivated because it is your job to increase the confidence of children and adults and enable them to gain new skills and qualities through the activities. Although activity centres are friendly environments, because of the nature of the adventure activities, safety is the biggest consideration so you also need to be assertive and able to instil discipline into your participating team while remaining friendly.

Staff at activity centres are role models for the participants, meaning you are going to lead by example, whatever role you are working in. Even if you are undertaking holiday or gap year work, you will be expected to take an active role in your professional development (if you feel you are lacking in skill or knowledge with a certain activity or you would like to gain more qualifications in a discipline, are you going to use your initiative and approach your superiors?), work within strict safety rules and in challenging situations. And we all know the sun doesn’t shine every day in the UK - you’ve got to be adaptable and carry out programmed tasks in accordance with weather conditions.

In a majority of cases, staff live on site at an outdoor activity centre so, depending on the level of your position it’s likely you will have additional evening supervision and housekeeping duties as well as your ‘day job.’ Busy periods are going to be busy but you will also get opportunities for socialising with your colleagues and taking on a bit of professional development during the not so busy periods.
How Old Do I Have To Be To Work In A UK Activity Centre?
Activity jobs carry a lot of responsibility and as such, many companies that recruit activity centre staff, such as Acorn Adventure, stipulate that you must be at least 18 years old. However, some companies don’t stipulate any minimum age - so, if you are a student who is under 18, it’s still worth researching some activity centres that may be able to employ you or even give you some work experience in some capacity.
PGL Travel Ltd
What Time Of Year Can I Work In Activity Centres?
Activity centres usually operate on a year round basis so there aren’t many limits for when you can work in them. Gap year students or graduates can work fulltime, and centres such as Robin Wood bring extra staff supervision in for their weekend programmes, so there could be options for you if you just want to work weekends.

If it’s purely seasonal work you are looking for, many activity centres run various programmes throughout the summer and recruit extra seasonal staff to cover the extra programmes. For example, Acorn Adventure Camps recruit seasonal staff for their April to September activities both for their UK and their European bases.
What Skills / Qualifications Are Needed To Work In A UK Activity Centre?
A current, up to date First Aid certificate is going to help you get a long way when applying for jobs in activity centres. Activity instructors will need to produce evidence of NGB qualifications (National Governing Body Coaching and Instructor Qualifications) or any other relevant instructor qualifications such as BCU awards for kayaking and canoeing proficiency.

No qualifications or experience? Do NOT let that put you off. If you really like the idea of activity jobs, the only qualification many of the centres are looking for is your unbridled enthusiasm for the job! Activity centres need highly confident, well-motivated staff so go ahead and apply and convince them they need you. Some, like PGL and The Venture Centre offer extensive training so you do not need any formal qualifications to join them, but they provide an outdoor activity apprenticeship so you will finish the season with internationally recognised course and activity instructor qualifications.
What Perks Will I Get When Working In A UK Activity Centre?
Many activity centres will openly admit that working for them is not going to give you hefty financial reward. But activity centre work is not just about the pay. It’s about what you get out of it personally.

An activity centre is only as good as the staff that run it so companies take your professional development seriously. While working in an activity centre, you’ll be given the opportunity take on extra training and perhaps gain new qualifications. Indeed, some activity centres expect you to gain new qualifications while you’re working for them, such as doing outdoor activity apprenticeships or undertaking outdoor pursuits instructor training. Some companies will increase your pay in accordance with your experience as you undertake more training.

A further perk to outdoor activity centre jobs is accommodation. The pay may not be great, but when your accommodation and meals are provided, your money is yours to do with as you wish. If you are working in an outward bound type of activity centre, your accommodation could be in a tent but these are usually fully equipped so you have a home from home under canvas.

Activity centres have a variety of adventure sports on their programmes, both land based and water based and specialist equipment and clothing is needed. Depending on your role in an activity camp, your employers will provide equipment and your uniform.

Companies that run activity centres also offer other incentives to staff such as prizes for employee of the month or season. These prizes can be experiences such as ski trips that you can undertake when your contract has finished. Other perks can be free overseas travel if you are working with Acorn Adventure in Europe, for example, and other companies offer retail discounts, and increased holidays for longer serving full time staff.

And of course, finding a job of any type in an activity camp is going to really enhance your CV so you can impress future employers when you come to choose your graduate career. And once you are following your chosen career, your experience of outdoor activity jobs will give you life skills that you’ll find useful in many areas of your work.
Acorn Adventure
The Venture Centre
Robinwood Activity Centres
Girlguiding
When Do UK Activity Centres Recruit?
Acorn Adventure recruit in the first couple of months of the year for their activity centres to work from April to September. They have centres in France, Italy, Spain and Wales and have a range of roles including outdoor activity instructor jobs. No previous experience is necessary so get your application in as soon as you spot those jobs.

X Keys Adventure invite applications on an ongoing basis and Robinwood Activity Centres have a range of outdoor centre jobs and recruit activity group leaders regularly, although the best time to apply is between October and March.

The Venture Centre tend to recruit between October and February with new recruits working from February through to October. They have great outdoor instructor jobs with plenty of training.

JCA recruit between November and January for seasonal activity centre staff to work from February through to October. They hire apprentice activity instructors, catering assistants, watersports instructors and more!

PGL recruit in January for a wide activity centre staff to work contracts of varying lengths between February and November. New employees with little of no relevant experience will join their Apprenticeship Foundation Programme.

Girlguiding recruit in January and February for activity instructors and general assiatants at their three UK activity centres in Sussex, Lancashire and the New Forest. There are 3 activity instructor roles from an apprentice up to a trainee depending on experience.

Other activity centres recruit throughout the year and place vacancies on the E4S job board so keep an eye out for any activity centre jobs that come up which suit you. Better still, set up an email job alert for these types of jobs so that you will have a head start on everyone else.
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