Good Practices

Outdoor Education Meets Youth Employability – a Perfect Match!

 Written by Abby Buckthought

An established Kiwi household name, outdoor education non-profit Outward Bound focuses on building transferable skills and attitudes to help create better people, better communities, and a better world.

Offering a range of courses designed with learning through experience, adventure, challenge, physical activities, and a supportive environment in mind, they have recently recognised an alignment with – and opportunity to further integrate – youth employability into their practice.

Community Development Partner Krishan Kumar says that “when it came to how to promote the programme to people so they can relate the outcomes back to themselves personally, highlighting it in an employability context was something that we really wanted to do, to show how it can help someone who’s on that journey – it puts some meaning into why they’re there.”

This fresh perspective has enabled Outward Bound to diversify their offerings as they have considered employability related outcomes, ensuring their relevance in meeting the needs of youth on employability journeys.

Krishan acknowledges the growing importance of key soft skills and resilience which is not always serviced by the education system, saying “greater awareness of that means we’re servicing New Zealand’s rangatahi the best we can for their futures.”

Developing those transferable skills contributes to the longevity of an adventure-based life as those who have gone through the programme and stepped outside of their comfort zone in a safe space can ‘take that confidence home.’

The organisation is committed to their continued incorporation of youth employability, exemplified by their plan to establish a course specifically for developing students in vocational pathways, who will likely go straight into employment from Year 12 or 13 and may not otherwise have the experience necessary to cultivate their skillset to its fullest potential.

Embracing a youth employability lens has also allowed Outward Bound to generate greater impact through networking. Krishan expands, saying “we’ve found that those that have come in, having been booked by an organisation that’s helping them develop those skills, have a little more buy in and engagement with what the programme is – it deepens their understanding of those developmental experiences, and then they’re supported when they get back home, so the transfer of learning is stronger.”

He continues, noting that “working with other providers or other organisations that are supporting young people is really special, it does take a village, and working together to create those outcomes is really important – the more providers we work with that are working with young people, the more opportunity there is, so we want to see who else we can reach and who else can we work with on that journey.”

Cost can be a barrier to programme participants, which Outward Bound strives to circumvent to the best of their ability by providing scholarships through youth employability organisations. “The scholarships provided to us by our generous donors allow us to work with communities, to provide opportunities and

lower that barrier to entry. There’s a natural alignment with the work that youth organisations are doing to prepare young people for employment – with the self-development outcomes of our courses, it’s a great fit,” says Krishan.

Their move towards further aligning with youth employability sees Outward Bound act as pioneers within the outdoor education space, demonstrating the potential for this powerful alignment to create positive change in youth employability; and vice versa, for youth employability to create positive change in outdoor education. The future for New Zealand’s rangatahi looks brighter than ever.