There are many ways in which people can gain the skill, knowledge and experience to lead activities. The Core GPG suggests four ways on how to make sure leaders have the right skills and knowledge. These are discussed further below. It also allows for suitable adjustment of what skills and knowledge leaders require depending on the actual circumstances, as one size does not fit all.
The key to understanding leader competence is to consider:
- What skills, knowledge and experience does the leader need, for the specific context of the activity?
- What is the most suitable way to make sure the leader has the required skills, knowledge and experience?
Competent leaders improve safety
Dependent participants (see FAQ Who is a dependent participant?) may not have the skills and knowledge to keep themselves safe. So, it is critical that adventure activity leaders leading activities with dependent participants, have the right skills and knowledge to manage their own safety and the safety of others.
Activity providers are best placed to decide the skills and knowledge needed.
The same type of activity can differ in context. For example:
- there are differences in the competencies needed to lead rock climbing on an artificial climbing wall to rock climbing on a natural cliff face
- bushwalking can vary, such as day walks or overnight, on a well-worn track or off track through dense scrub, with school students or people living with an intellectual disability.
The competence a leader needs depends on many factors. So, it is up to the provider to consider those factors and then decide what competencies a leader in that situation needs.
Leaders need to be competent
Leaders can get experience, skills and knowledge in many ways. They may have gained it through others showing them what to do, reading a book, watching a video or trial and error. This could have been improved through active participation such as ‘personal trips’ and ‘other experience’. In Australia we are fortunate to also have a range of training available for outdoor activities.
So, getting the competence necessary to be a leader is likely to come from a variety of ways.
If competence is gained through different methods, then for example, needing to have a TAFE (Vocational Education & Training (VET)) qualification to demonstrate competence, is not a method that will work in every situation. That is why the AAAS & GPGs focuses on the ‘competence of the leader’ and not ‘leader qualifications’.
Four methods to check leader competence
A combination of pathways may be used. While a qualification is one way an activity provider might recognise a leader’s competence, it is not the only way.
The Core GPG suggests 4 ways to ensure leaders are competent:
- training qualifications and/or a training course (e.g. University degree, TAFE qualification)
- outdoor sector or organisational accreditation system (e.g. Paddle Australia guide or instructor award)
- leader registration scheme (e.g. NOLRS)
- peer recognition and verification process (e.g. provider has leader demonstrate their competence).
A means of determining leader competence is via a “peer recognition and verification process”. This usually has a competent and experienced leader, verifying a potential leader’s skills and knowledge before they can lead activities.
Some organisations and groups have their own “organisational accreditation system” to ensure leaders, coaches, instructors, facilitators etc. have the appropriate skills and knowledge. The context in which these are issued might be very specific situations (e.g. accredited to lead rock climbing on a specific climbing tower) or more general situations (e.g. guide kayaking on class 3 rivers).
Leader competence summary
The key points are:
- The AAAS & GPGs provides recommended Units of Competence (UoC) that describe the ‘skills and knowledge’ for leading groups of dependent participants – Also see FAQ What is a unit of competence the GPGs refer to?
- Activity providers need to decide what skills and knowledge are appropriate for their own context and circumstances – this might vary the units and/or particular ‘skills and knowledge’ needed
- Activity providers need to use some method to check that leaders have the required competence and currency
- there are four recognition pathways to choose from and this might use a combination of methods.