Joel McPherson found that studying for an outdoor career not only gave him the qualifications he needed, but a new network of colleagues and adventure buddies, as well as the momentum he needed to start his own adventure tour company.
A passionate traveller, environmentalist, and outdoor adventurer, in 2019 Joel was ready to take all of that and pour it into a new career leading outdoor adventure tours. But he quickly realised his previous experience wasn’t enough – he needed qualifications to be taken seriously.
‘Someone in the industry actually did ask me, “Have you got a Cert IV in Outdoor Recreation?” I said, “What the hell is that?”.’
‘I realised that although I can do all these outdoor activities, I didn’t have any qualifications to prove it.’
‘The world we live in, you can’t just say – yeah I can do that – and then that’s good enough. That’s what made me start searching around for ways to get some base level qualifications,’ Joel says.
Cert IV in Outdoor Leadership
The Cert IV in Outdoor Leadership (previously called Outdoor Recreation) is an entry-level qualification for guiding outdoor recreation activities. It’s a way to learn the basics of planning and leading outdoor adventures, including in remote areas.
For Joel, studying at Chisholm TAFE in Victoria, the course focused on bushwalking, canoeing, climbing, and abseiling. It also touched on mountain biking, sea kayaking, low ropes courses, white water rafting, and included an alpine camping trip. Not a bad way to study!
‘There wasn’t much time in the classroom,’ says Joel. ‘The majority of the time we were going out camping somewhere for a week and learning while we were out there.’
‘I kept thinking, how did I not know about this course 20 years ago? I’m basically out doing all the things I love doing in my own time and getting qualified.’
A quick Google search throws up course options at institutes across Australia. While there are no set entry requirements, Joel thinks it’s best to have some prior experience in outdoor activities.
‘We put in some pretty solid days hiking, riding, and canoeing. It’s definitely fun but you need to have a level of ability for it to be fun,’ says Joel.
The majority of people who do the course end up working in Outdoor Education and school camps. But for Joel, that wasn’t the reason why he was doing the course.
Change Your Trajectory
For anyone wanting to make a big change, small steps may only get you there slowly, if at all. For Joel, the Cert IV course meant making a commitment to getting qualified and setting himself up to pursue his dream career.
‘My main motivation was to keep doing these outdoor activities that I love, and get paid for it,’ Joel says.
‘Going on a hike or mountain biking every couple of weeks to satisfy my desire, I wasn’t really going to get introduced to that world anytime soon, if at all. If you want to change your trajectory you need to throw yourself out there.’
The course not only gave Joel a qualification but also a great network of friends and connections within the outdoor industry.
‘If you show that you’re capable then people are going to be throwing work your way, pushing suggestions your way or just wanting to do stuff with you in their own time.’
The Dream Job
Despite ongoing lockdowns, Joel’s pushed on with the pursuit of his dream – to have his own adventure tour business.
He launched The Snowy Shuttle in 2019, taking small group tours to Victoria’s snow fields for an ultimate alpine experience on and off the slopes.
But when COVID lockdowns shut down the tourism industry in Victoria, the native Queenslander headed north.
Now based in Noosa, he’s launched Joel’s Journeys, offering tours, adventures, and tailored experiences for anyone wanting to experience the kind of stoke only found in the outdoors.
What started as a need to gain qualifications has led to an awesome outdoor career.
‘I’m tour guiding but making it more exciting and more extreme, getting a bit more immersed into the natural world,’ says Joel.
‘It’s a dream to be able to do what you love doing in your own time and get paid for it.’