Te Mahi Ako Apprentice of the Year competition: An outdoor instruction career that’s going places

Published 10 November 2022
Landing a great job in a stunning location AND furthering your education at the same time? This was a dream come true for outdoor instructor and apprenticeship graduate Alex Parsons.

Alex (pictured above) is one of three candidates for the 2022 Te Mahi Ako Apprentice of the Year. This award, now in its seventh year, goes to a highly-skilled individual with commitment, passion and diligence, who is working to improve the wellbeing of New Zealanders, through the medium of active recreation, leisure or entertainment.

Alex has loved the outdoors since childhood, and got her first taste of working in the industry after high school, as a camp volunteer in Canada.

“I fell in love with the work, the lifestyle and the impact I could have on people. It made me want to pursue it as a career,” Alex says.

When she returned home, she gained a Diploma in Outdoor Instructing and Guiding, and then worked at Wildwire in Wanaka, followed by the Rotoiti Lodge Outdoor Education Centre.

“At the end of my first year at Rotoiti… I was offered a permanent role [along] with an opportunity to complete the Te Mahi Ako Facility Operations apprenticeship. It was an amazing opportunity, and I was 100% on board. Getting a full-time, permanent role, along with furthering my studies in my chosen career? It was a dream… With the skills gained from doing the apprenticeship, I could move up into more senior roles in the future. It was a no-brainer for me to accept.”

Alex says completing the apprenticeship gave her a keen understanding of the mechanics of running a great outdoor recreation facility, and all the different elements that go into it, from health and safety through to participation barriers.

“I’m also much more interested in the behind-the-scenes and administration side of tourism and outdoor businesses now. There is a huge array of things that need to get done in order for operations to run smoothly. Like gear maintenance and checks, keeping qualifications relevant, having audits completed, safety checks done, training, forms filled and signed, and ensuring we keep our facility as inclusive as we can.”

Alex’s career has kept going from strength to strength, and she still has a knack for picking a good work location - she is now a guide and administrator at Ecozip Adventures on Waiheke Island. She says her mission remains the same – to help people fall in love with the outdoors – and she plans to move into more senior roles over time, and eventually run an outdoor recreation business herself.

Rotoiti Lodge manager Russell Ferens says Alex was a dedicated staff member who added lots of value to the team, and it has been great to see the apprenticeship continuing to open doors for her as she has moved on to her next adventure.

About the Apprentice of the Year competition

The Te Mahi Ako Apprentice of the Year will be announced this month at the Recreation Aotearoa Awards. Check out our articles on the other two finalists, Tim and Nita!


Media contact: Esther McLaren | esther@skillsactive.org.nz | 021 195 5127

Skills Active Aotearoa Group is a not-for-profit organisation, 50% owned by Māori shareholders, supporting capability development in te ahumahi ā-rēhia: the active recreation, leisure, entertainment and events sectors.

Te Mahi Ako is part of the Skills Active group, and supports individuals to develop themselves through real-life learning within businesses, iwi and communities.