Our business is called Northern Ireland Survival
School. We set out to bring a high level of quality education and skills training
in the kind of realm of wilderness living skills, so that covers things like
bushcraft survival skills, made famous by people like Ray Mears and Bear Grylls. We’re
mostly based in Galgorm Castle Estate which is just outside Ballymena. We
have been working from here for around eight years. We would run courses for private
individuals, for corporate groups as well as youth groups, so we would really offer
courses to anybody. Our basic course takes people with no experience and teaches them how to make fire and make shelter, purify water and also how to forage. So those
are the four basic building blocks that we always build upon. We’re really all
about keeping our training and our knowledge to the highest level we can.
And that was really one of the challenges to be able to do what we
actually wanted to the level we wanted. One of the training providers we have
worked with is the Northern Regional College. We went on a course which is a
Level Two Tour Guiding course and we thought that because we bring people
into the woods, we take them on a journey and we’re talking the whole time.
In a way it is actually a tour and whether you’re looking at trees or
you’re looking at ancient buildings, it’s not really much different.
It really breaks down how to put a good quality tour together and it also
explains things like the relevant legislation that you need to be aware of,
health and safety and communication, and how to kind of develop your tour.
Just from from start to finish it was excellent.
The Skills Focus programme under the funding of the Department for the
Economy is a very exciting programme, really designed to promote, support and
facilitate and work in collaboration between Further Education colleges and
Small Medium Enterprises, to encourage upskilling and rescaling
in organisations that want to avail of the 75 per cent funding that exists. The positive outcomes from the training?
We were able to very quickly actually put together two different tours, one
based around foraging which we recently ran for the
Head Chef from the Hastings Hotels group. We also put together a tour of the coast,
about the Neolithic coast, around Larne looking at the ancient tools that were made there and
how they were used, and also the plants and trees that were used by our ancestors. I would recommend the Skills Focus programme to other companies, it
certainly opened up whole new avenues to us. It gives you a great building block
to actually build your business even further, it’s always great to have a
qualification that is recognised, that you can give out to your staff or to the owners of the business, which helps them link up with new networks.