Sunday, 29 November 2015

Site Specific Training + being a Tech Advisor

Today I was doing some site specific training for Worksop College. With the weather forecast rather than spend the whole day at their outdoor climbing tower we went to Awesome Walls in Sheffield to start before heading back to the tower to look at applying the training there. I'd visited AWCC Sheffield for seminars before but never climbed here but using the Centre was a pleasure: from the helpful and informed phone call yesterday to the door staff today I had a positive experience of bringing a group there. The area for beginners was large and well set and didn't feel too crowded even at the busiest part of the day and as I was watching some extremely dubious belaying wondering whether to intervene a floorwalker appeared to do their job in a polite and informative way. Good work guys.
I act as a Technical Advisor to a number of walls and can appreciate the effort that has gone into getting a staff and centre to a level where it works like this. I was recently on the receiving end of a gripe from an experienced Single Pitch Award holder about why Mountaineering Instructors should be Technical Advisors and went to some lengths to correct his misconceptions.
For someone to be a TA they should be a genuine expert in the field (the Association of Mountaineering Instructors recommends 5 years minimum) as well as having direct experience of the sort of judgements about staff training and assessment required in a number of contexts and situations. The average MIA has worked in a variety of centres, has been in a training role with other staff and has a proven experience of walking, climbing and mountaineering. They've also been Assessed in situations where there are numerous grey areas and forced to recognise that there are lots of ways of doing things many of which may be right. The average SPA has a less full toolbox and often only one way of doing things. Note: I'm not talking about all SPAs but as a measure the SPA as a standard doesn't show the breadth and depth of experience needed as a TA.
But then the MIA isn't enough either. Its a good start but people should look closer; is the MIA someone who has worked in this environment themselves for a good time? Have they experience of Training and Assessing on Mountain Training NGB courses- a great way of demonstrating the sort of understanding required to create site specific training programs? Have they experience of being a Technical Advisor in this field? Have they attended CPD from AMI to help with their understanding of the role? Have they asked questions of you about what you want from the TA role and made it clear what they can and can't provide? How often do they plan to visit your site? What sort of paperwork have they asked to review? Are they showing a genuine interest in your business and how to help you achieve your goals whilst demonstrating good industry practise.
My SPA protagonist was telling me about very poor MIA TAs who just signed off on things without really reviewing them or even understanding them. That's unacceptable (and potentially puts the business, their staff and clients and the MIA at risk) but easily fixed. Ditch them and look for a genuine expert. Interestingly I went to a joint BMC/ABC/AMI seminar for climbing wall TAs a few years ago and the most impressive thing I saw was a young MIA who at the end of a day discussing liability, staff training and safety management said that he hadn't understood how much was involved and that he wasn't ready to take on the role. That's a good new MIA making a sound judgement.
There are experienced people with lower Awards who would make excellent TAs. But the SPA bears no relation to their expertise. Equally holding an MIA or higher Award is not enough to demonstrate competence as a TA but as a baseline its is a much more appropriate one in my opinion.

Anyway here are some pics of today:
 Teaching and checking knots
Belaying and backing up
 Thinking about novices belaying
 HPT demonstrates 'the twist'
On site at the tower

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