The National Trust have devoted time into teaching local school children the knowledge and skills needed to become a Tour Guide within Northern Ireland’s developing tourism industry, and this week celebrated their success on achieving the OCN accreditation with a ceremony held at the Giant’s Causeway.
The first project of its kind to the local area launched in September 2018 when Keith Acheson, a National Trust qualified Tour Guide and local man, who has worked at the Giant’s Causeway for the past five years became an accredited OCN Trainer. The National Trust has become an OCN Training centre, enabling Keith to deliver courses to the local area. Partnering with Dunluce School, Keith had the chance to teach and share the love for his job to local students, who on completion of the course have each successfully attained an award in Tour Guiding.
Keith said, “I am absolutely delighted to be congratulating the ten Dunluce School pupils today, they should be extremely proud of themselves for achieving a Level Two award in Tour Guiding. I had the idea of engaging local children in this new project which would enable them to learn about their local area and Northern Ireland’s best known tourist attractions. The National Trust loved the idea and were keen to turn it into a reality.” The National Trust enrolled Keith with OCN, the Open College Network Northern Ireland, a nationally recognised education charity and awarding organisation working with community and businesses creating qualifications that enable individuals to grow and develop.
Attending Dunluce School two days per week, Keith has been teaching a group of ten Year 12 students the skills to better understand the role of a tour guide in the travel and tourism industry, tapping into tourist’s interests, what different attractions in Northern Ireland have to offer and understanding why tourists want to visit here. Students have learnt the skills to organise a tour with the ability to write and deliver a short tour commentary, including understanding the health and safety around tour guiding.
Keith explains, “It is a great chance to share our knowledge with local students and is really rewarding to see them have an interest in their local place. It provides them with the amazing opportunity to gain the Tour Guiding skills where they will have the potential to develop a career in their local area with the National Trust.”
Phillip Smyth, Principal at Dunluce School praised the project; “We have had lots of successful partnerships with the National Trust, however this is the first National Trust led program and we can happily say it is a strong enrichment course offered at the school.
“There is clear educational and personal development in the children; this course has given them a chance to enhance their personal social skills and confidence, it was a huge achievement for them to lead their own tour. Already we have students actively seeking employment with the Trust and some have been successful in gaining seasonal employment. This partnership is a strong community match for us.”
Ciara McClements, Visitor Experience Manager, National Trust added; “We know that our guides play a significant role by enhancing the visitor experience by really bringing sites to life. This has been an opportunity to develop the next generation of tour guides, and Keith has shown great commitment to developing local young people and we’re all very proud of what they have achieved together.”