Rachael: A pioneer of work-based learning in snow sports

Published 1 November 2023
Meet Rachael, the dedicated snow sports school manager at Cardrona. Rachael has embarked on a remarkable journey in the realm of work-based learning through Te Mahi Ako (TMA). Her story is one of passion, dedication, and the transformative power of education within the workplace.

Rachael's connection with TMA began during her tenure as part of the instructor training department at Cardrona. Their collaboration with a Polytechnic institution introduced her to the concept of "learning while you're working," a philosophy she holds dear to her heart.  She firmly believes in the immense value of this approach, one that takes individuals from the classroom to the snow and eventually transforms them into experts.

 When Rachael transitioned into a managerial role, her journey with TMA expanded as Cardrona began working closely with (TMA). She fondly recalls the early years, characterised by challenges and clunky learning materials. However, the TMA team proved to be invaluable partners “the team at TMA are amazing, they worked really closely with us and helped us develop material to suit us, it was so easy and seamless”.

 Rachael is a passionate advocate for work-based learning, emphasising the benefits it brings to both learners and the workplace. The goal was clear: empower staff with the knowledge and freedom to work anywhere, recognising the value it brings to everyone involved “we really saw the value for them and us, we were fully engaged and worked collaboratively”.  

 Accountability and the importance of values are central to Rachael's leadership philosophy. She underscores the value of their induction qualification, ensuring that every member of the team is aligned in their understanding “so that everyone was on the same page…so that there was consistency”. TMA played a pivotal role in integrating Cardrona's core values into the qualification itself, infusing these values into every aspect of the learning experience. This interconnected approach has strengthened the values, making them an integral part of the qualification rather than a separate entity “TMA were amazing in weaving our values into the qualification – that gave the values real value”.

 In terms of accountability, Racheal highlights how integrating Cardrona's values into their qualification process keeps the organisation relevant and continuously evolving. Each year, they engage in debriefing and updates to ensure that their values remain pertinent and aligned with their evolving needs “as a leadership team, we would say ok, how did the delivery of the qualification go? What was the feedback like? So, in that way, over the years we have tweaked all these values as how we see fit". This ongoing process has proven to be a “powerful tool, fostering accountability and providing space for reflection and growth”.

Racheal does admit though that “along the way there were definitely some challenges in delivering the training – whilst you’re operating, I think it makes you stop and think – what’s really important and how do you make this a part of the learners experience with the company”. Racheal says that “ultimately, and coming from a learner point of view, having clarity and consistency has been so valuable. Dedicating time to deliver a wide scope of information is so key”.

 “We do quite a bit of work about the history of skiing in New Zealand. This is so useful when talking to guests. For our new leadership team, they’ve seen real value in upskilling in that information for example, presenting, talking, evidence verifiers. Every step of the way is a good challenge. Organising their time and engagement with the learner. We’ve seen such positivity come out of that.

When asked what another favourite part of the industry was, Rachael said it was the “national part - being able to have that point of reference as an industry so that when all of the NZ ski industry gets together then work-based learning is part of that information that is referenced…it kind of crosses over the commercial aspect of it – its information we can share together. All of us want to get the knowledge and the value – it’s a real shared belief. That’s another aspect of it that’s been amazing”.

 Racheal's role as a manager has placed her at the forefront of delivering safe and enjoyable experiences. Leading a diverse team from around the world, she recognises the privilege of working with such dedicated professionals. Racheal's journey with TMA has not only enriched her career but has also prepared her for a new role at Park City Mountain Resort in Utah, one of the largest ski companies in the United States. She plans to carry the invaluable lessons learned from her TMA experience into this new chapter, a testament to the enduring impact of work-based learning “I don’t think my journey with work-based learning has finished – I'm always going to continue wanting to do stuff with that...maybe I'll cycle back to it – I don’t feel like it’s the end for me!". Racheal's story serves as an inspiration and a testament to the value of partnership, education, and continuous growth in the snow sports and education industry.