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Greater Victoria teens explore outdoors, hone leadership skills with tourism program

Businesses partner in SD61 program that trains students as tour guides
Students explore the outdoors and learn how to lead in the Greater Victoria School District’s Tourism and Leadership Exploration program. (Photo by Sean Thompson)

As tourism surges to start summer in Greater Victoria some businesses struggle with staffing, while a handful are awaiting student help due to arrive in August, courtesy of a Greater Victoria School District (SD61) program.

Open to students heading into grades 11 and 12, Tourism and Leadership Exploration (TALE) is a partnership with Westcoast Adventure College that dates back to 2015. The experiential program runs during the summer months, with classroom and outdoor training ahead of an August apprenticeship.

“It’s centred on adventure tourism, which is perfect for our city,” said Lindsay Johnson, SD61 vice-principal for pathways and partnerships.

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TALE targets students who love the outdoors and approaches the topic from a variety of perspectives, including the view of a guide and how to best share information while guarding the safety of patrons. The learning is fun and engaging, Johnson said, with Westcoast Adventure College instructors teaching about local flora and fauna, Indigenous ways and how to lead a group.

“For a lot of our students it’s a great way to grow confidence in leading,” Johnson added.

Students put those skills to work in late summer, joining such partners as Eagle Wing Tours in Victoria.

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The students land in August when things are the busiest and they’re usually ready to help, said Eagle Wing general manager Nathan Bird, whose family-run company offers guests experiences on the Salish Sea. While teens in general need a little more direction at the start, these young people come quite focused and willing to do the work, he said. The students frequently get through their required hours quickly and finish the summer on payroll. Some even return for a couple seasons, depending on school situations.

“We’re about mentoring kids and bringing them through the ranks. We’re keen to keep doing this as long as (the school district is) keen to keep sending us kids.”

Students receive course and work experience credits and can apply through their school’s career centre.

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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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