Olly Townsend is the Exodus Leader Operations Manager. His role is to recruit, train and schedule work for the UK leaders, but also to assist the various Exodus local companies with the training of their own leaders and guides. In the past twelve months Exodus has run a total of five leader training courses in locations as varied as Kathmandu, Marrakech and the Yorkshire Dales, and there are three more planned for the 2008 summer and autumn seasons.
A large percentage of Exodus trips are led by what we call “local leaders” – non-UK based leaders, who work for a local travel company, rather than directly for Exodus. There are many reasons behind us choosing to run trips this way – we feel that local leaders can bring a wealth of local knowledge, a deeper knowledge of the local area, the customs, religion and history, and can help give clients a better understanding of the destination country. The other benefit is that by using local leaders, a higher percentage of the cost of your trip stays in the country that you are visiting, rather than the money going back to the UK.
In order to maintain a high standard of leaders across different trips that the local travel companies operate for us, Exodus runs regular local leader training courses. The aim of these courses is to produce a high standard of local leaders across the whole range of trips that Exodus run. Courses are tailored to suit specific destinations and activity types, and cover areas such as the Exodus company ethos and values, health & safety, first aid and responsible tourism. As well as the “work” part of a leader training course, we always try to incorporate some fun team building sessions too – for example we played inter-country cricket, did a morning’s white water rafting and went mountain biking in Nepal with the Asian leaders last year!
Exodus currently employs around sixty UK-based leaders and guides. We use the UK leaders to run a number of trips around the world where we need technical expertise such as our wide range of cross-country skiing trips for example; or specialist skills such as a specific type of driving licence; or mountain qualifications such as International Mountain Leader qualification for some of our European trips; or where it is difficult to find suitable local leaders.
The UK-based leaders go through a comprehensive selection and recruitment process, followed by relevant training and assessment courses with nationally approved bodies, such as the UK Mountain Leader Training Board, and undergo regular in-house training courses. Our UK leaders are encouraged to undergo Continued Professional Development (CPD), and we fund appropriate training and assessment courses for them.
Luckily it’s not all work for the UK leaders either though! At our annual UK leader conference last year, we spent a morning putting everyone through a series of team building challenges including a giant spider’s web, a team slalom ski race and a bomb disposal problem!
Leader training on mountain biking course
December 2007 Episodes article
As well as using a large number of well trained and experienced local leaders, Exodus employs a team of skilled, well travelled and qualified UK leaders.
Exodus runs an annual 'UK Leader Conference', where most of the UK based leaders spend a weekend somewhere exotic (this year was Malham Tarn in Yorkshire) socialising, swapping ideas, discussing best practice and being updated by the relevant office staff on the news and plans from Exodus headquarters in Balham.
The 2007 UK leader conference took place in early November, just in time for the first snow fall of the season! Over forty leaders attended the weekend, and undertook challenging (but fun) team building sessions, completed a first aid course refresher and tested out some of the new equipment to be issued to the staff for the 2008 season. For 2008 season, the Exodus UK leaders should now be fully prepared, well equipped and full of enthusiasm.