Mountain Workplace or Playground?

In the last decade we have seen a driving force of adventures being documented on social media, blogs and vlogs – clear to see that people are feeling more confident and more at home in the outdoors. With inspirational, now-well-known adventurers and outdoor instructors such as Megan Hine, Anna McNuff (and her adventure queens) and brilliant movements like the Yugen Explore meetups, the outdoor industry is welcoming people with open arms. We are finding ourselves in an exciting time, where more and more people are heading to the hills to gain confidence, find themselves and their new community. But is this just a past time or are more people seeking a career in the hills?

At the time of completing my Mountain Leader Qualification, I was surrounded by men and women wanting to embark on a new career and lifestyle in the outdoors,  which had me wondering – what were the statistics across professional outdoor qualifications. Were more and more people seeking this outdoor career or was I projecting my personal ambitions? Were we seeing the emergence of a female work force on the hills? A few years later, with more data gathered by Mountain Training, it’s time to dive in and see how the outdoor industry is shaping up.

The Stats

Between 2011 and 2019 there was a 2.6% increase in the numbers of female registrations for the Mountain Leader qualifications (Summer, Winter and International) which roughly translated to an average of 13 more women per year, beginning or continuing their Mountain Leader pathway. This increase in uptake began to pave the way for a steady increase in the split between male and female qualification holders each year. We can see that the percentage of qualified female Summer Mountain Leaders has been steadily rising from 2011.

Screenshot 2020-06-11 at 15.49.37

Looking wider, at the number of registrations each year for both climbing and walking awards*, the male/female split has varied, with certain qualifications only seeing a handful of women register for certain qualifications in some years.

Screenshot 2020-06-11 at 16.28.18

It is great to see that there has been a 2.9% increase in the percentage of qualified female leaders** from 2011 to 2019. But what about registrations as a whole – are more avid outdoories signing up for qualifications each year? Well, not quite.

We can see (below) that registration numbers for Mountain Training qualifications have varied over the years, with peaks in 2011 and 2016. However although 2018 wasn’t the worst year for the number of registrations, 2019 didn’t see the increase in uptake that you might expect, with 2019 registrations only 0.007% higher than the year before. That equates to just 46 more people signing up for qualifications in 2019 compared to the previous year.

Screenshot 2020-06-11 at 15.50.23

Its clear to see that the interest and popularity of Mountain Training schemes vary over the years and who is to say just how many factors play a part in these changes year on year. COVID-19 restrictions and safety measures hitting the UK in March 2020 saw the UK outdoor industry ground to a halt. With a record low of training courses, assessments and registrations expected in 2020 as a result, the future of the outdoor industry is currently uncertain.

With this brief snapshot of the last decade, it is exciting and intriguing to see how the outdoor industry will shape up over the next few years and decades to come. Will we see more individuals taking up the journey to become a Mountain Leader, Climbing Instructor or Lowland Leader? We will have to wait and see.
For now, we sit and wait ready to be given the green light and head back into our beloved hills after COVID-19.

No matter your ‘why’ for being there, I hope to see you in the mountains soon.

*Climbing awards included in data: Climbing Wall Instructor (formerly Climbing Wall Award), Climbing Wall Award-Abseil (final year of which 2017), Climbing Wall Development Instructor Award (formerly Climbing Wall Leading award), Rock Climbing Instructor (formerly Single Pitch Award), Mountain Instructor Award/Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor and Mountain Instructor Certificate. Walking awards included: Hill and Moorland Leader (formerly Walking Group Leader Award), Lowland Leader Award, Mountain Leader Summer, Mountain Leader Winter and International Mountain Leader International.
**Females holding the awards/qualifications included in the above *.
Data was provided by Mountain Training Spring 2020. All analysis and content in this article is independent and not that of Mountain Training or their providers.

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