As many of you know, Island Vista are the training provider for the tourist guiding course in Shetland. The course is 8 months long and finishes with 3 days of assessments. After this, you become a Green Badge guide for Shetland. The course is accredited by the Scottish Tourist Guides Association.
The course is not for the faint hearted and takes place every second winter. It is intense, both for the students and for the trainers. However, it is completely worth it. Working as a tourist guide is such a fun job that you can hardly even call it work! What’s not to love about spending time with guests showing them an island that you love dearly?
Our last group of students got off to a flying start in September 2019. The first part of the course is learning all about the different aspects of Shetland’s heritage, history, culture, economy, wildlife, etc from local experts in their field.
In December, our STGA trainer came up from the Scottish mainland to deliver the “Guiding is Fun” module. This coincided with the Island Vista Christmas party, so it meant that Pauline, our trainer, got to join in the festivities too.
After a nice long break over Christmas, in late January, the real fun started. We spent every second weekend for the whole weekend, out practicing routes and commentary in the coach. To say this part of the training pushes people outside of their comfort zones would be an understatement! It involves each student taking it in turn to practice in front of their classmates and trainers and receiving feedback on their commentary. Not an easy thing to do but all a necessary part of the training.
Things were going well, right up to March 2020. Well, we all know what happened that month. Life changed for everyone, and we had to take the difficult decision to postpone the course until it was safe to restart it. We had hoped that would happen in September 2020 and we were days away from getting going again when the announcement came that numbers were again to be restricted and we could no longer meet in large groups.
Cue attempt number 3, where we hoped against hope that we could start training late February/early March and be ready for the assessments in the first week of April. Once again, lockdown restrictions prevented this from happening.
We finally settled on a date at the end of May, and I hatched a plan that would allow us to train but in smaller groups. It meant double the work for the trainers but at this stage, I was determined to make it happen. Thankfully, restrictions lifted just enough to make it possible to complete the training and hold the final assessments on Sunday 30th May.
It was a lovely day of weather for the assessments, which is unusual for guide training. There is a joke that “if it’s not raining, it’s not training.” However, maybe Mother Nature decided that this group had been through enough already.
The final feedback was sent to the students on Monday, and they formally became accredited Green Badge tourist guides for Shetland. We have 10 new guides: Matthew Audley, Malcolm Brown, Lyall Gair, Elaine Hughes, Selina-May Miller, Linda Nicholson, Helen Perry, Chloe Tallack, Gwen Williamson and Denise Woodford. Selina-May also inherits the crown of being our youngest tourist guide and our first fully qualified tourist guide under 30.
The training course is supposed to teach you everything you need to know for becoming a tourist guide. However, I think doing a course that was supposed to take 8 months but ended up taking 20 months must be one of the best tests of endurance you can get.
Well done for getting through it you guys. Wishing you a long and happy guiding career. Remember - guiding is fun!!