My name is Tom and I am currently an Apprentice at Channel Adventure. I am 19 years old and I grew up in Somerset, where I went to local primary and secondary schools. I enjoyed secondary school and made a lot of friends but I was unsure of my career path.
The main thing I realised at secondary was that I enjoyed the lessons where I could be a bit more hands on and a bit more practical. I finished secondary school and came out with some pretty good GCSE’s so for me the next logical step was to carry on my education by going to college doing the subjects I enjoyed.
I was always pretty active and outdoorsy growing up, if there was something I could do then I wanted to give it a go. I did football for a few years before I started playing basketball which I played for years and loved. It was perfect for meeting new people but it also massively relied on working well as a team.
I was also part of the scouts which gave me the opportunity to try loads of different sports and activities, spending time lots of time outdoors and learning skills such as map reading. As I got a bit older I started going to climbing lessons at my local bouldering wall because I loved the challenge of trying to improve and learning the new skills to progress onto harder sections.
I started mountain biking in my first year of college and I soon found out about all the great riding there is to do in the UK and the different types of mountain bikes. The more I researched the sport the more engrossed I became. After a year of riding my friend tells me about a mountain biking event they do on Exmoor in the summer so we signed up straight away and off we went. By this stage I was still by no means a great rider but I will never forget how much fun I had doing that event. Being outdoors on a sunny day with my friends doing a sport that I loved, full on summer vibes!
Flash forward another year to my final year of college. I had enjoyed college but I was still not entirely sure what I wanted to do so I didn’t want to go off to university if I wasn’t certain on my next steps. By this point I was still obsessed with my mountain biking and I had a part time job in a retail store working in the bike department which was helping develop my knowledge and skills even more.
We signed up for the Exmoor Explorer mountain biking event again and set out for another day of great Exmoor trails. All the experiences came rushing back, the lush summer days, out riding with friends, doing a sport that I couldn’t get enough of, Heaven on earth basically. At the end of the event I rode into the event village and was met by a great group of people who were running the event. I stood there for a few minutes and had a little chat and joke with them before more people from my group arrived (who knew that a year later I’d be working with all of these people!).
After college I stuck with my job for a while because I could pick up lots of hours and keep busy whilst still enjoying what I do. A few months later I see an advert for an open day at Channel Adventure so I thought I would go down and have a look to see what it would be like to be an instructor. I went along and after walking around for all of 10 minutes I instantly knew that this was a job I could see myself doing. I already love being outdoors and trying lots of activities and I already knew they could throw a pretty cool mountain bike event. I got a call back after the interview and I had only applied for a summer instructor role but I was told about an apprenticeship they offer for outdoor leadership.
I had to weigh up all the factors a little bit as I knew it would be a bit of a pay cut but I came to the conclusion that the opportunity was too good to pass up and after a bit of adjusting the pay wasn’t really even a factor any more for doing something that I loved. I started my apprenticeship in late March and that was the beginning of a whole list of new experiences for me. We started by doing all of our training in water sports, archery, axe throwing, climbing and many more.
We were now into the full swing of summer and to say it was busy is an understatement. Even though it was tiring, there was no chance of wiping the smile on my face. Every day I would be doing something different and developing more and more as an instructor working with a variety of people.
One of the best learning experiences was the NCS programme which ran for just shy of two months. There were new groups coming every week all with different experiences in the outdoors and it was great to see the groups develop over the week and really get stuck into the activities. This was definitely an experience I will never forget because I remember how much work had to go in to make it a good programme but I also remember how enjoyable it was and how many great experiences I had whilst I was there. On the final day of NCS we also did a little bit of filming for a TV programme which was definitely a new experience for me but a cool experience to get to tell people about what it’s like to be an outdoor instructor.
The day after we started preparing for the Exmoor Explorer riding event. It was a very weird feeling to be on the other side of the event, seeing how everything runs and how much work goes into making sure that it is enjoyable and runs smoothly, but I think the weirdest feeling was welcoming my friend across the finish line instead of riding across it with him, someone had to ride it for the team though.
It’s fair to say that the instructing side of the job is great fun and for me it seemed like such a logical move to do something I enjoyed after college. Being on an apprenticeship isn’t just about doing the instructing though it also has a bit of written work you have to do as well. After going to secondary and college I was quite used to getting written work so I didn’t really mind it. The difference I found was the level of freedom you get when it comes to doing the written work.
Over summer it was obviously very busy so opportunities to get written work done were a bit slim. However this wasn’t a big issue because they understood it would be like this and over winter I was given loads of time to complete the written work without feeling the pressure of lots of instructor work at the same time. It was slightly odd to have a work schedule that fitted around me but having these deadlines made it a lot easier because I knew that I was still on target to finish my written work on time. Most of the time I was quite happy to just get on with my written work but there would be times when I just needed a bit of help or guidance on some of the questions and as soon as I asked for a bit of help the support was there. This made completing the work a lot easier knowing that there would be people I could go to for help.
After nearly a year on the apprenticeship it’s great to look back and see how much has happened in such a short space of time. I started a new job doing what I love to do and got to work with a great group of people who made me feel like part of the team straight away and I got to meet even more awesome people along the way.
I have developed loads of new skills and even managed to pick up a few old skills again that I had forgotten. I’ve started going climbing and kayaking again after not doing it for years and by doing this apprenticeship I have had the opportunities to pick it up again.
Doing an apprenticeship was definitely the right move for me. It has been such a great experience and the amount I have done and learnt in the space of a year is incredible. It has been so different to anything else I have done before and although sometimes it has been hard, it is worth every second of it!