OIA Update – December 2018

One of the great characteristics of the outdoor industry is how it draws in talented people who then stay in the sector.  Many are attracted in the first place because of their deep love of the outdoors and remain part of our community because of the opportunities that it provides to combine work with a genuine passion.  And so, at the various trade gatherings every year, it’s always good to see many familiar faces – some may represent different brands over the years or wear new metaphorical hats, but they continue to contribute to our industry’s success in a huge variety of roles.  It is with that in mind that the OIA is delighted to hear of the appointment of Arne Strate as the new General Secretary of the European Outdoor Group – representing another generation of leaders and promoted from within the association.  We warmly welcome Arne and look forward to continuing our close partnership with the EOG.

To sustain success in the future, we need to open up more pathways into the outdoor sector for new talent.  Many individual companies already do that through their own initiatives and of course, we do also see a healthy number of first-timers at events, who are warmly welcomed into the sector.  Nevertheless, it is vital that the outdoor industry thinks seriously about the long-term and that both collectively and as individual organisations, we identify how future generations will be able to develop careers in the outdoor sector (i.e. not just a short-term job as a staging post on the way to somewhere else).  It doesn’t stop there – we also need to understand how best to articulate and communicate those opportunities and so attract the leaders of the future.

Whatever the wider state of the economy, for the most talented job seekers with the best-developed skills, there has always been a sellers’ market, so it is essential that our sector has strong appeal.  The good news is that the outdoor industry has matured significantly over the years and is also generally buoyant.  Anyone who is considering their career options and does a little bit of online research should quickly find references to sustained growth in the sector, growing influence in public affairs, a proactive approach to issues such as CSR and sustainability, and dynamic campaigning to get more people active in the outdoors for the benefit of society as a whole.  For reference, just look at the OIA website or projects like the State of Trade reports produced by our partners at the European Outdoor Group, plus campaigns such as those run by the European Outdoor Conservation Association, the It’s Great Out There Coalition (#itsgreatoutthere) and Ordnance Survey (#GetOutside).

All of the above is immensely valuable in portraying the outdoor sector as a great place to work, offering employment opportunities with an attractive ‘lifestyle’ aspect.  But we can’t rely on that ‘googled’ reputation alone, which is why we have created the OIA Development Board, which focuses on the future shape of the industry and how it will be populated.  The project is being led by Claire Carter, the association’s engagement officer, and has been in development itself for most of the year.  During a nine-month consultation period, over 60 future industry leaders were interviewed about their perspectives on the OIA and the changes facing the industry, and how they thought they could steer both if given the platform.

The board offers younger members of the OIA a vehicle to help steer the whole organisation on developing our membership, communication, diversity and sustainability, the four key threads of operation that came out of the consultation.  There will be an ongoing digital forum to engage the entire group that was consulted, and future interested parties, and we have now recruited a physical board which will meet three to four times a year.  The first meeting was held last month, fittingly hosted by the Youth Hostel Association in Manchester, and the next will be within our AGM and conference in March, when the Development Board will also run a workshop on the first day about its objectives.  Delegates (bookings now open on the OIA website!) will be welcome to attend.

We are delighted with the early progress of the Development Board, which during the first meeting elected Sam Fernando (Keela) as Chair and Andy Green (Sport Pursuit) as Vice Chair.  There are currently eight members, who represent different parts of the industry and are already bringing fresh ideas to the OIA leadership.  There is room for input from more people, so if you are interested in contributing, please contact claire.carter@theoia.co.uk.

The OIA Team