Owen Bird, director of best standards and practices for the Sport Fishing Institute of BC, was assigned to find them. As a lifelong fishing enthusiast, Bird has rubbed shoulders with many of the estimated 2,000 guides in the province. "I've been fortunate enough to visit many of the different regions on the coast and have fished with and met a decent cross section of guides, so I felt well qualified to get the right people," he says.
Initially, the TAG program's developers thought that four assessors would be enough to launch the process of certifying professionals and newcomers to the industry. "But by August of 2010 we decided that 10 would be better — five in the Lower Mainland and one each in Victoria, Courtenay, Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert and Campbell River," says Bird. "As a starting point, that covered BC's most popular sport fishing regions quite nicely."
Bird lost no time approaching his colleagues. "I already knew some people who would be ideal assessors, and others I selected not only because of their experience but also because of the respect they had earned from the communities in which they operated," he says. Bird's task was facilitated by word of mouth, as news of the TAG certification program spread through industry circles: "The guides knew a training program was coming and were keen about participating."
Once the 9 individuals were selected, go2 put them through an intense six-day training regimen that took place in October and December 2010 at the Delta Vancouver Airport hotel. In essence, the guides obtained their TAG certification and then participated in assessor training. "We used a modified version of a training system that had been developed for our Professional Cook Program, which involves a lot of reading, studying a lot of concepts, and considerable scenario-based role play," says Dennis Green, go2's senior manager, industry training.
Green was struck by the breadth of knowledge the recruits brought to the table. "It was quite an experience to be in the same room with them," he says. "Our goal had been to find recruits with a minimum of 10 years of guiding under their belts, but these people had been in the business for 20 to 25 years and were the cream of the crop." Accordingly, go2 also solicited feedback from the recruits about how to improve the training process for future assessors. "Based on their input, it will probably take longer and be more linear," says Green.
As of February 2011, the TAG assessors were preparing for the initial wave of certification candidates. "The process is fairly straightforward," says Green. "A candidate submits a portfolio to us, we examine it and then hand it to an assessor. The candidate then takes a written test, and the assessor uses the test results, plus the portfolio, to decide the merits of the candidate during a two-hour interview with him. If the candidate obtains 18 units of competency in areas such as safety, boat operation, emergency radio procedures and so forth, the assessor recommends that person to us for certification."
From Bird's perspective, TAG is a welcome component to the sport fishing industry. "A lot of my colleagues have understood that standards and a certification program were something that would benefit, protect and promote business and the reputation of the guiding community on the coast of BC," he says. "It's gratifying that it's finally getting underway and with good people behind it."
Click on the individual links below to learn more about each of the 9 TAG assessors: