Dangerous liaisons – exploring university ‘employer engagement’ opportunities to benefit the adventure and outdoor industry

Lynsey Melhuish

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Published conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


    The objective of the presentation will be to explore the exciting and innovative opportunities available to the adventure/outdoor industry through university collaboration. A conceptual review of associated literature has been completed as part of a Doctorate in Education and this forms the rationale for future thesis research to be undertaken in 2017.18. The presentation will examine current ‘contemporary adventure’ themes raised through the research so far, exploring how increasing competitive, economic and global pressures, have influenced universities to strengthen relations with industry to develop graduates with effective employability skills, knowledge and attitudes to prepare them flexibly for different work situations. This responds to the growing and dynamic nature of the adventure and outdoor field and changing workforce demands. Recent studies/statistics have revealed that an industry once based around traditional outdoor education/learning has now diversified extensively to include extreme/adventure recreation, tourism/travel through to nature therapy and alongside the growth of associated retail industries and the provision of equipment/clothing supplies. This arguably requires a more flexible/fluid workforce and a far wider knowledge/skills base than that of the traditional ‘outdoor instructor/practitioner’. UK universities are under increasing pressure from government regarding the growth of university-employer co-operation and ‘employer engagement’ initiatives provide exciting opportunities to integrate ‘real-world’, vocational learning, through work placements, graduate internships, knowledge exchange/enterprise, and research/consultancy projects; which could prove beneficial to organisations within the adventure/outdoor industry.

    The presentation will explore conceptual theory analysed through a literature review and which forms the foundation for the future thesis. This has revealed interesting themes to compliment contemporary adventure topics associated with the 6th International Adventure Conference. Future primary research will be undertaken as part of the thesis, to explore these themes from the ‘student’ (or future employee) perspective. This is based on a qualitative, case study methodology focusing on the ‘employer engagement’ experiences of one undergraduate adventure/outdoor management degree cohort (approx. 16 students) across a 3-year learning programme within a university setting. Utilising focus groups, interviews and existing secondary material (work placement journals, career destination data etc) the thesis will examine how the student experience is comparable/complimentary/conflicting with the differing stakeholder workforce demands from a government, university and industry perspective.

    Findings, discussion, initial conclusions
    The last decade has seen ‘climates of economic change’ with, discussion/debate surrounding undergraduate adventure/outdoor degrees and more contemporary ‘leisure’ related university courses. This has questioned whether the industry needs graduates or alternatively, whether employees with more operational /national governing body (NGB) style qualifications/skills are preferred. These debates were exacerbated in the 1990’s following media/political criticism of the growth of more ‘vocationally based’ degrees which fuelled the ‘micky-mouse course’ stigma against traditional academic disciplines. Thankfully, studies more recently and alumni success stories, indicate that the changing adventure/outdoor climate has created the demand for a more diverse/multi-layered workforce. While adventure employers may not necessarily be looking initially for ‘graduate/management material’, the awareness that a graduate has a deeper knowledge/understanding of the workplace, and relating to more economic/commercial/strategic agendas (in marketing, finance, business, socio-cultural issues, etc) combined with extended professional/personal development, provides confidence that he or she will be able to progress well in a related organisation. At the same time, graduates can see longevity in their career prospects and thus, avoid the ‘glass ceiling’ that can limit promotion and/or progression into management or diversification into related industries. An effective balance of academic theory and operational/real world experiences is integral to ensure success for all stakeholders and the 6th International Adventure Conference provides a perfect opportunity to present the literature/conceptual themes so far and to engage and explore delegate perspectives on university/industry collaboration from a diverse international adventure/outdoor field. Outcomes from the final research thesis can be shared in future conferences.

    *Full references list can be provided on request
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationClimates for Change - Rethinking the outdoor experience
    Subtitle of host publication6th International Adventure Conference
    PublisherAdventure Tourism Research Association
    Number of pages34
    ISBN (Print)ISBN 978-1-9999775-0-4
    Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2018


    Dive into the research topics of 'Dangerous liaisons – exploring university ‘employer engagement’ opportunities to benefit the adventure and outdoor industry'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this