Many roads can lead to Outward Bound. The typical new field instructor has at least one of these four qualities: expertise in a certain outdoor skill or significant expedition experience, very real teaching and/or leading credentials, a strong philosophical alignment or OB student experience.
Most staff begin as interns, and a few start as new assistant instructors. No one starts as a lead instructor. VOBS believes in helping staff grow just like students, through challenge and discovery. We mentor staff through clarity, purpose and method, active supervision and the supreme advantage of the two-person co-worker relationship.
With our students, we believe in structure, role-modeling and follow-through. It is the same with development of our staff.
If you are interested in working with us, please see the career FAQ's to see the qualities and requirements for our assistant instructor and internship positions. We also highly recommend that if you are not an Outward Bound Alumni, that you consider taking a course to personally experience Outward Bound.
Our office crew works with the field staff to support transformative programming for students, parents, and families. We hire flexible, motivated, and self-reliant people to create an administrative team which is focused on mission delivery, safety, and the support of students and staff in the field. Administrative positions are located at Homeplace (Ely, Minnesota) and at the Twin Cities Center (St. Paul, Minnesota) and include Office Manager, Student Services, Human Resource Manager, Development Officer, and many more.
There are critical roles at VOBS that fall outside of the Field and Administrative categories. We hire seasonal staff to manage and support the dog yard, program logistics, and the kitchen. All of these individuals are relied on by the program and administrative staff to be consistent, thorough, and resilient.
What population does VOBS work with?
Voyageur specializes in working with teenage and college-aged students. With an unconditional positive regard for each individual in every crew, we meet them where they're at and take them to the next level of awareness, skill and achievement.
Where do you operate?
Northern Minnesota, all seasons (called Homeplace).
Out of the Twin Cities Center, year-round.
Texas in the fall, winter and spring.
Should I work at the Twin Cities Center or the Ely Base?
That depends on your qualifications and interests.
Voyageur prides itself on educational quality and consistency. We are very dedicated to what traditionally works as well as being educationally relevant in today’s world. Our staff are well trained in assessment, student management and wilderness skills.
At our smaller Twin Cities Center you can work with increased diversity of students in creative environments to develop lasting relationships with organizations and schools. The Twin Cities Center is educationally on the cutting edge, specializing in highly effective, shorter programming. It's possible to combine work at the TCC with other employment.
The larger basecamp outside of Ely in northern Minnesota, Homeplace, is a draw for many staff to return year after year. We feel quite literally “at home.” Its sense of community is consistently mentioned as a highlight for new and returning staff. The educational philosophy and curriculum is executed in a wilderness setting on extended expeditions (typically 3 weeks). Groups of strangers arrive and soon learn that they can do more than they think they can and that they absolutely need one another.
What qualities are you looking for in staff?
Why should I do an internship?
We hire for both interns and assistant instructors. The best way to come in to VOBS is through the internship. Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you the same. It’s where we grow your skill base, your familiarity, your support network and most importantly, your heart. You need that for this job. Interns must have a readiness to be flexible and committed learners. They will experience VOBS from the bottom up and come out feeling competent, confident and eager. You need at least a Wilderness First Aid certification, CPR and outdoor, educational or related experience.
There are three sessions of the internship at Homeplace. What is the difference?
The sessions are I, II and III. Not too complicated there, but they are very different in some ways. The first session is essentially an Assistant Instructor position with a slower pace, more training and a crew of staff to support you. You are guaranteed a certain amount of work after you complete your internship.
The second and third sessions are the same, with a three-week training phase and a six-week support phase. Both of these sessions could end up working as an Assistant Instructor during or after the support phase, but it is not guaranteed. This decision is based on need for instructors, student enrollment, and skill level.
All internships are paid.
What does it take to be an Assistant Instructor?
Assistant Instructors must have a Wilderness First Responder, CPR and either Lifeguarding or Wilderness Water Safety certification. More importantly, they must have actual leadership experience in the outdoors, preferably on extended wilderness expeditions. They should be confident, socially flexible, skilled learners and fast movers. Most people hired into the Assistant Instructor position have at least 4 years of wilderness expedition instructing experience.
Is Outward Bound the place to start and learn about experiential education?
No. If you are new to the outdoors, experiential ed and leadership in general, then Outward Bound is not for you. Outward Bound is a leader in the experiential education community and we are looking for individuals who are ready to build on their base of skills and experience. Our recommendation is that you go and acquire some skills, and then come back when you are ready for OB. There are many ways to do this and many paths to VOBS.
The worst case scenario would be for you to come to VOBS and feel, or VOBS realizes, that the fit is currently not a good one. Then you'd have to leave and improve your skills and perhaps return later. It's best to prepare yourself to join the VOBS community and stay for a while!
What is your hiring process?
All hiring is through our website, www.vobs.org. We begin hiring in November and continue into the winter and spring until positions are filled. We hire 24 interns and some assistant instructors, depending on need. Training begins in mid-May and is not negotiable. Some interns begin later, in early and later June.
Anyone wanting to work for our wilderness base in Ely, Homeplace, must begin with and annually work the summer season, running from mid-May to the end of August. Fall and spring positions are filled from the summer staff pool. The Ely Winter and Texas Rio Grand programs run from early December through March and is not available if you have not worked for OB previously.
The Twin Cities Center has a similar hiring process for summer and hires again for the fall/winter/spring seasons.
But...I really want to just work in the non-summer season?
Sorry, this doesn't really work for our Homeplace base. In order to work Winter or Texas, you must work summer. This helps to maintain a core group of staff, aids in training and solidifies our desired community culture.
The Twin Cities Center operates the same way but with more exceptions based on needs for the school year.
What is your retention?
VOBS is dedicated to the continued development of its chief asset—its staff. We engage our staff in their own learning and growth as educators of students, mentors for each other and learners of the great Outward Bound process. From the intern up to the senior leadership team is trying to improve self and the staff and student experience.
The Voyageur Outward Bound School is a destination workplace. Staff return year after year, not only for one course but preferably for an entire summer of challenge and discovery. As one new staff person put it best, “They told me it would happen. I fell in love with VOBS.”
Do you have questions or want to talk more about working for the Voyageur Outward Bound School?
If you need to speak to someone about applying or your application, please contact either the Staffing Director at Homeplace or the Staffing and Training Director in the Twin Cities.
Homeplace (Ely): 218-491-6795
TCC: (St. Paul): 651-401-0634
Note: if you try and contact us during the late spring/summer/early fall about hiring, we do not guarantee that we can return a call as quickly as you'd like. We are running full steam ahead with programming. The hiring season is November through April; then we are much more available.