Horseback Riding in the Eldorado Basin with Chilcotin Holidays
With some of the most spectacular scenery to be found in BC, more residents and tourists alike want to travel into the backcountry and experience the beauty of the vast and magnificent wilderness. Until guide certification standards were developed, many wilderness backcountry operators were challenged by the shortage of professional guides.
Wilderness Guiding Needs Professionals
Given the seasonal nature of guiding and the type of work required until recently, guides were mainly self-taught. They were also hard to recruit to an operator's remote location, particularly when there were no incentives encouraging them to put down roots.
This didn't go unnoticed. BC's tourism industry met with government departments, post secondary institutions, and professional associations in hopes of uniting all interested parties to develop an industry-wide initiative to create guide certification standards.
Chilcotin Holidays Guide Training Institution
The provincial initiative was too slow to get off the ground for Sylvia and Kevan. They established the Chilcotin Holidays Guide Training Institution in 1990 and hoped the graduates from their program would create a pool of qualified guides to hire for their own business and, more importantly, to increase the professionalism of the industry.
Sylvia and Kevan designed the wilderness guide-training program with the unique needs of both participants and operators in mind. The program sought to:
- Give participants a solid base of combined working knowledge and practical skills
- Provide training that could be easily modified to fit individual candidates
- Produce well-trained graduates that found work
Specialty Hands-on Training Modules
To provide a graduated approach to guide training, Sylvia and Kevan developed training modules that can be taken separately or in various combinations. Each level is progressively challenging.
This framework allows students to adapt their training to suit their:
- Personal interests
Tuition is all-inclusive, including the meals, accomodation, all equipment, and licensed instructors. According to Sylvia and Kevan, it's common for students to take two and three modules per season.
Guide Apprenticeship Log Book
Because a guide's training doesn't end with the program, Sylvia and Kevan created their own log book similar to what other apprenticing industries have. The Wilderness Guide's Log Book enables graduates to record their ongoing training, work experience, knowledge, and qualifications as they work towards becoming a professional guide.
Like a resume, the log book tells an employer what experience and training the guide has acquired, but it also includes a description of training and experience needed to meet the various levels of guiding. Chilcotin Holidays' training has become an employer's standard within the industry.
Job Listings Throughout Western Canada
To help the graduates find work, each year Chilcotin Holidays mails out a referral package explaining the skills of its graduates to over 450 outfitters, ranches, fishing lodges and stables throughout BC, Alberta and the Yukon.
Employers specify their staff needs and return the form to Chilcotin Holidays. These responses are collated and made into a job opportunities listing which graduates receive upon completing the training program.
Standardizing the industry has been a long time in coming and a lot of hard work, but Sylvia and Kevan will tell you, "A well-trained and experienced guide makes all the difference in the success of your business."