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Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA Berkshire Outdoor Center

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INTERVIEW PREPARATION

Thanks for your interest in employment with Berkshire Outdoor Center. As part of our hiring process, we will interview you in the coming days. In the lead up to this interview, we would like to provide you with some information regarding the Program Instructor and Senior Program Instructor positions at our campuses in the Berkshires.

Overview

Berkshire Outdoor Center is one department of Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA. Located in the town of Becket, Massachusetts, the facility is spread over 1,350 acres of forested conservation lands, with pristine brooks, streams, ponds and bogs. The facility has two main campuses – Camp Becket and Chimney Corners Camp, and Berkshire Outdoor Center operates at both of these.

Our staff at Berkshire Outdoor Center are the strongest asset to our program. We look for staff who exhibit high energy and enthusiasm and a willingness to provide the extra effort to make our programs very successful. Our staff enjoy their positions here – many of them returning year after year to work with us, returning from many states within the USA, and from many countries around the world.

Seasons

The Program Instructor and Senior Program Instructor positions are seasonal. Employment is not guaranteed beyond the season immediately hired for. Due to the nature of our seasons within the operation, we offer staff positions for the following season based on performance in the season prior. This selection based on performance allows us to choose the strongest staff to operate our programs.

Our operation changes drastically based on the season. Berkshire Outdoor Center operates year-round, with our busiest season being the fall, followed by the spring, and then the winter. The summer months are very busy too, although different from the other three – with Camp Becket for Boys, Chimney Corners Camp for Girls, Travel & Service Programs and Becket Day Camp all in full-swing. Even though we don’t take User Groups at this time, the variety of positions available with all the camps provide dozens of opportunities to our Program Instructors and Senior Program Instructors for continued employment here through the summertime.

Opportunities may include running a waterfront for the summer, operating Project Challenge programs on the Challenge Courses, leading a cultural and service-oriented trip abroad with teens, or being a counselor in our day camp.

The skill sets learned at Berkshire Outdoor Center provide staff with training to work in these areas (and others) throughout all the departments within the organization.

The seasons run with the approximate dates:

Fall Season

  • Start: August 16 or August 23.
  • End: Various, up to November 1 - December 15.
  • Holiday Break: November 15 – December 31.

Winter Season

  • Start: January 1.
  • End April 1-14.

Spring Season

  • Start: April 15-30.
  • End: June 12.

Summer Season

  • Start: June 13.
  • End: August 23.

Program

The best way to understand the programs we offer is to visit our activity list. In summary, we offer the following programs for our groups:

  • Outdoor Education/Environmental Education
  • Leadership Development Programs
  • Adventure Recreation
  • Winter Adventure Recreation
  • Winter Outdoor Education
  • Family Camps
  • Family Programs
  • Women’s Wellness Weekends
  • Retreats and Conferences
  • Duties

    One of the strengths of Berkshire Outdoor Center is that we train our staff in all aspects of the program, providing them with a well-rounded outdoor education teaching experience. This allows our guests to have the same instructor across all the activities that they participate in, and allows our instructors to vary up their day by performing a variety of tasks.

    Staff are expected to work in all program areas. We will train you in the things you need to know, but the more you can bring to the program, the better. Obviously, if you have a passion in any of the aforementioned areas, you will deliver a stronger program to our guests – and this is a trait that we look for.

    We work closely with our guests prior to their arrival to tailor our programs to suit their needs, and often the programs are a combination of environmental education, outdoor adventure education and teambuilding and leadership development.

    As with many other outdoor education programs, our staff are required to tidy guest lodging, clean program areas, dining hall and other meeting areas, as well as do dishes at meals. Our staff are not expected to clean bathrooms or toilets.

    A complete job description is available here.

    Hours and Pay

    Staff are paid by hour.

    Ideally, staff will have 2 days off per week but during some weeks you may have 3 days off and other weeks you may just have one – this fluctuation is dependent entirely on our bookings and the needs of our guests. You should anticipate 4-5 full days of work per week during our busy weeks and 3-5 days per week toward the end of each season.

    Training

    Training is provided for all aspects of the position at Berkshire Outdoor Center. Obviously, if you come in already trained in our program areas, that is preferred. But if you don’t have prior training in a particular aspect of our program, never mind – we will train you!

    Training is operated in modules, so there is not a specific staff training week. The modules are designed such that you may begin working with guests in areas of the program as the training modules are completed. For example, you may have completed training on Forest Ecology, but not yet have completed the Challenge Course Belaying module. This means that you can get straight to work teaching the ecology, but will not yet begin belaying guests on the Challenge Course.

    All staff are checked off in various aspects of programs, regardless of prior experience coming in to the position. For example, if you have a strong background in belaying, you will still be required to undergo our skill verifications, regardless of external qualifications you may hold.

    Training Modules

    • Challenge Course Instructor – High Elements Level I
    • Challenge Course Instructor – High Elements Level II
    • Challenge Course Instructor – Low Elements Level I
    • Challenge Course Instructor – Low Elements Level II
    • Lead Challenge Course Instructor Training
    • Child Abuse Prevention Training
    • Staff Policies and Living On-Site
    • Teambuilding & Leadership Development
    • Boating – Canoeing and Kayaking
    • ARC Lifeguard, CPR, First Aid & Lookout Training
    • BCCYMCA Driver Training
    • Environmental Education Training
    • Emergency Action Plan Training
    • Waterfront Supervision Training
    • Winter Adventure Recreation

    By the end of a season at Berkshire Outdoor Center, you will know how to:

    • Teach Environmental Education – specifically pond, beaver, bog and forest ecology
    • Teach Canoeing & Kayaking
    • Teach groups of all ages, children through adults, to work together, develop a team
    • Belay on sophisticated Challenge Courses and climbing towers
    • Teach Cross-Country Skiing, Snowshoeing and Winter Outdoor Living Skills (winter only)
    • Additionally, you may become a qualified American Red Cross Lifeguard.

    General Schedule

    Typically, the day begins at breakfast at 8 am. Sometimes the days can be long, ending as late as 9:30-10 pm, although mostly we’re done by 8-9 pm. Due to the nature of our programs, every day you work will be different, beginning and ending at different times and filled with different activities, as our guest's needs dictate. We do our best to give our staff at least 2 days off per week, but the days off that you receive will often be different days each week. We do our best to work with you for requested time off and days off. Almost always we are able to accommodate time off that has been requested before we made the schedule. We require staff to be flexible to last minute changes in the daily schedule, as details change frequently based on the changing needs of our guests. By and large, we are able to tell you your days off at the beginning of each month.

    Occasionally, you will be asked to work as a “sleep-in”. Sleep-ins are staff who supervise room. This is only requested when groups do not have enough chaperones to adequately supervise their children. In such a situation, you will be paid hourly for the night. There is an assumption that you are working from 9pm-12am (getting kids to settle in may keep you up until midnight!) and again from 6-8am (as the kids get ready for their busy day ahead). Sleep-in situations are not very common, but they do happen. In most cases, we ask for paid volunteers to fill these positions.

    When you are not on the schedule, you are not required to be present onsite. The Berkshires are a beautiful place to live and play and there is a lot of opportunity to get off-site and spend time away from work. We encourage our staff to take advantage of the outdoors.

    International Staff

    Our aim is to provide a diverse staff to our guests, including staff from all over the United States and the world. Typically, around 50% of our staff may be from abroad, providing a rich variety of cultures and nationalities for our guests to meet and learn from. It is a great opportunity for you to make friends with people from all over the world, too.

    Housing

    Housing provided is based on the seasons we are hiring for, as well as the duration of employment. Generally, the longer you stay, the better your housing. Staff should always anticipate having at least one roommate and maybe more than one. We provide doubles in a brand new staff house built in 2009 for longer term staff, and we provide housing in cabins (2 to a room) for our full season staff, and dorm rooms for our part-season staff that are here for less than 6 weeks. All accommodation has regular internal bathrooms. Each of the rooms in the new staff house have their own full bathroom.

    Feedback and Evaluation

    Staff will receive informal, on-going feedback at the end of each group’s stay from their immediate supervisors – the Program Coordinators. Formal feedback will be in the form of a one-on-one interview with the Program Director once per season. A written evaluation will also be completed. Staff are also given copies of evaluations from guests that pertain to them. This feedback may be positive or negative and will be directly as the guest wrote it. This kind of feedback is valuable in boosting instructor confidence, improving skills and customer relations, and may be even more valuable (at times) than formal feedback. These evaluations are a terrific window into the guest experience here, and instructors have a unique opportunity to learn about the impact they've made - an impact that often gets taken home before it can be shared.

    Summary

    Of course, there’s a lot more to our Berkshire Outdoor Center, but these are some of the main points asked about during our hiring interviews. If you have any further questions that were not answered herein, please be sure to ask them during your interview. We wish you all the best and look forward to speaking with you.

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    748 Hamilton Road, Becket, MA 01223
    Tel: (413) 623-8991 | Fax: (413) 623-5890