There are hundreds of jobs and roles available overseas, some of which have a degree of responsibility, there are companies that offer training and support and one such company is PGL, we asked our reporter Amani to see what they can offer you…
We interviewed Jemma Pearce, the recruitment marketing executive.
What does your company do?
PGL Travel Ltd – are the UK’s leading provider of residential activity holidays and educational courses for children.
In which countries do you offer work?
We operate at over 35 locations across the UK, France and Spain, employing in excess of 2,500 seasonal staff team members each year.
Why should people choose this country/area to live and work in (in terms of a culture as a whole, as well as teaching the sport)?
In terms of our opportunities in France and Spain, we offer the chance to live and work in a supportive environment where the emphasis is on fun and personal development, both for guests and for staff.
We provide on-site accommodation, three meals a day and return transport from a UK port to our overseas centres so the logistics are all taken care of.
Lifestyle-wise, working for PGL gives you the opportunity to live and work in some fantastic locations including the French Mediterranean Coast, the Alps, the Dordogne.
If you’re looking for something less active, we also have centres based in Chateaus in Paris and Normandy which focus more on language study, educational tours and the cultural aspect as well as land-based adventure activities.
At all of our locations, there’s an emphasis on enjoying the outdoors and the natural environment around our centres.
Do you have a wide range of nationalities working with you or a main group from a specific country?
Yes – we recruit staff from all over the world and enjoy the cosmopolitan feel this brings to our centres. Everyone is there because they share a similar outlook on life and many staff make friends from different countries who they go on to stay with. We do require people to have the legal right to live and work in the UK to be employed with us. We currently have staff from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, Scandinavia and throughout Europe as well as from all over the UK and Ireland.
Do individuals need qualifications as well as experience before applying for jobs, or is experience alone enough?
This would depend on the job they wanted to do. For our Activity Instructor and Group Leader roles, we look for people with previous experience of working or volunteering with children and young people but not qualifications are needed – an ability to relate to our guest age group is more important than any formal awards. We then provide them with an intensive pre-employment training course and on-going training and assessments.
Our specialist Instructors (e.g. Sailing, Kayaking, Surfing and so on) need to hold a qualification from the National Governing Body of their chosen sport at a minimum level to demonstrate their personal competency. Whilst we take on a certain amount of ready-qualified coaches and instructors each season, we also operate pre-season training courses accredited by the British Canoe Union, Royal Yachting Association and all of the National Governing Body awards of the activities we offer. This gives our staff with a fair personal competency level the chance to progress to the next level or move on up to become nationally-qualified coaches.
Do you offer jobs to those without any experience, but simply an interest in learning the chosen activity?
Yes – this group form a significant section of our annual staffing intake. We pride ourselves on being able to give our staff (and guests) the chance to gain experience and progress in areas that they may not have previously had the chance to experience. Lots of people start with us in catering, support or Activity Instructor roles, enroll on our nationally-recognised Apprenticeship programmes and return for two or three seasons, building up their experience and moving into senior roles at our centres or permanent roles at our UK Head Office.
What are the day-to-day routines of the jobs you have mentioned?
At the heart of all roles is a commitment to customer service excellence and making sure that our guests have a memorable, smooth stay. Instructors will deliver taster sessions in their specialist activities, explaining what to do and how to do it to guests, before monitoring them – ensuring guest safety and enjoyment is at the forefront of this role.
Group Leaders make sure that their groups get to sessions on time, get up, get to meal times and liaise with teachers and party leaders to make sure they’re getting what they want from their stay with PGL (and more!). Our ‘Groupies’ also organise full programme of evening entertainments, from discos and talent shows to Beach Olympics and the infamous ‘Miss PGL’ competition.
Our catering teams work together to prepare child-friendly, healthy wholesome meals to fuel guests and staff for their days of climbing, sailing, kayaking and what ever else they may be packing into the day.
It’s the job of our support teams to make sure the centre is well presented – accommodation, communal areas, the grounds and buildings. Never underestimate how much mess a coach-load of school children can make – And we often have up to 900 young guests at our larger centres!
We also have an administration team, first aiders, drivers and security staff at each centre, working behind the scenes to make everything run smoothly.
What’s the salary like or do you just get qualifications in return for work?
We offer a weekly wage, paid four-weekly, that’s competitive in the industry. Staff with little or no previous experience will be enrolled on the first level of our Apprenticeship programme, meaning they will get free food and accommodation and take home anything from £320 – £400 every four weeks (no tax taken). We also offer weekly bonus payments for staff holding certain qualifications.
Staff with certain qualifications, previous experience or those returning for a second or subsequent season (in the UK), will receive the National Minimum Wage for their age group, with a small deduction for accommodation and meals.
Our training courses are all offered free of charge, on the proviso that you complete your contract of employment with us.
Accommodation, meals and a uniform are all included as part of our staff package, as well as insurance, use of activity equipment in your free time and return transport to the resort from a UK port.
Would you recommend this type of job?
Definitely! I’ve worked as an instructor on the French Med coast and as an administrator in the Alps – it was one of the best times of my life so far and the transferable skills I gained during that time I have helped me to get the job I have now, which I love. I have lots of fantastic (and some very random) memories and am still in touch with several of the people I worked with almost a decade on. I learnt a lot about myself, in terms of what you can cope with when you have to, constantly, but calmly, thinking on your feet and what you can live without – which is quite a lot. You definitely become very resourceful and un-materialistic when you live in a tent for five months.
The highlights for me include becoming fairly proficient in two other languages, having the opportunity to drive around many of Europe’s most famous sights at the end of the season, and meeting interesting, like-minded people which has led me to other opportunities, both professionally and socially. Living in some breath-taking locations where it rarely rains and where people spend their hard-earned money to visit for a week, but which becomes your home, is a real privilege too.
How is the experience helpful to individuals and their future career?
You gain many transferable skills, like group management, diplomacy and customer service skills. You may even pick up some of the local language – that’s up to you. Some staff will leave us with nationally-recognised, formal qualifications which they have for life. We find that employers look favourably on people who have worked overseas as it shows initiative, motivation and a sense of adventure.
Is accommodation included if not, is there accommodation locally and what’s the cost?
Yes – accommodation is included with all of our roles. This can vary depending on the centre, but is typically a chalet shared between two people (some are en suite), rooms within the main guest accommodation (often a converted country house, chateau or farm) or large-frame, chalet tents for our staff working in Southern France and Spain. Accommodation is included as part of our staff package.
What’s the nightlife like?
As chilled or as crazy as you want it to be! You could go out climbing or paddling after work one evening, have a few drinks in the on-site bar the next evening and head into the local town the next night. It’s really up to you. All of our centres have an active staff social life ready and waiting – It’s a significant aspect of the seasonal work lifestyle. And that doesn’t always mean drinking! There are plenty of opportunities to experience the local culture and take advantage of the natural environment.
Are there other things to do like sports/beach/tourist attractions?
Yes – we give staff info about the local area when they are sent their contract offer. Because of the activities we offer (climbing, sailing, canoeing and so on), our centres are never located far from a beach, river or mountains – all of which offer plenty of opportunities for trying new activities. Our centres which offer more educationally-based products are located close to tourist sites, including Paris, Normandy and the WWI Battlefields.
Are there any negatives?
It can be hard work – you work six days a week and can be working into the evening, depending on your job role. It can be physically, mentally and even emotionally draining if you don’t give yourself a break to re-charge your body’s batteries and the weather is quite hot, so we encourage staff to talk about things that are bothering them, have regular reviews with their line manager and not to drink alcohol every night!
Some staff working away from home for the first time can occasionally get homesick at first, and again, we’re always here to talk, but most people settle in quickly and love the lifestyle.
What’s so good about working in the locations you offer?
Living in some breath-taking locations (mountains, river gorges, sun-soaked sandy beaches) where it rarely rains and where people spend their hard-earned money to visit for a week, but which becomes your home, is a real privilege. You get to take advantage of the activities on offer too.