YHA (England & Wales)’s drive to enable more young people leading challenging lives to access employment in the outdoors has taken a step forward thanks to a grant from Sport England.
The leading youth charity is one of 16 projects to receive a share of £1 million of National Lottery money to enable it to recruit, develop and employ 12 young people through an Outdoor Activity Instructor Apprenticeship.
YHA has been awarded £119,953, one of the largest grants awarded by Sport England from its Workforce Diversity Great Ideas Fund which is aimed at engaging women and/or Black, Asian or minority ethnic communities in coaching or volunteering.
The grant award reflects YHA’s and Sport England’s shared vision to increase the diversity of the work force in the outdoor industry. Currently the outdoor leader profession is male-dominated.
Through the grant YHA aims to attract a 50% female cohort which it will develop into future leaders in the field of outdoor education through the apprenticeship scheme.
As part of YHA’s drive to increase the diversity of its own workforce and create one that is reflective of society at large by 2025, at least 50% of the Outdoor Activity Instructor Apprenticeship cohort will also be BAME and 75% from low socio-economic groups.
By adopting the Outdoor Activity Instructor Apprenticeship programme, which has been developed by outdoor industry expert groups and thought leaders, YHA will build on its work with young people leading challenging lives and responds to burgeoning unemployment amongst 16 – 24 years olds (some 357,000 16 – 24 year olds were not in employment or full-time education in the summer of 2019, an increase of 52,000 from a year before).
The Outdoor Activity Instructor apprentices will be employed across YHA’s 153-strong network of youth hostels in England and Wales working with schools and groups on adventure breaks at the properties.
Anita Kerwin-Nye, Director of Strategy and Engagement, explained: “The Sport England funding is enabling YHA to take a significant step forward in our ambitious target to ensure every young person and even more families benefit from residential adventures in the outdoors.
“Key to our ambition is having highly experience and qualified activity staff, which can coach and support people to get the best experience in their time outdoors.
“This new partnership with Sport England is allowing us to develop a new cohort of Outdoor Activity Instructor Apprentices to expand our team and to reach new audiences.”
More than 900,000 people currently stay with YHA every year, including schools, groups, individuals and families, many of them using youth hostels as a base for walking, running, cycling and sport in the outdoors. Large numbers of young people and families enjoy activities run by YHA activity staff and coaches – from high adrenalin adventure in canoes and on mountains; to family orienteering on sunny afternoons or star gazing and bat walks at night.
Anita Kerwin-Nye added: “As a trading charity, YHA is in a unique position to facilitate access to the outdoors and the improved health, wellbeing, educational outcomes that are associated with it. We not only have the physical resources through our network of properties, but also the expertise and partnerships to develop further training programmes which support young people living with disadvantage. This investment will help thousands more get active outdoors.”
Recruitment for the YHA Outdoor Activity Apprenticeship scheme will begin imminently as YHA looks to have the apprentices in place ahead of the peak school trips season.
YHA is keen to hear from organisations that may work with young people that they think would be suited to the apprenticeship role.