Skills Active Apprentice of the Year competition: Showcasing a talented outdoor instructor

October 21, 2019

Christopher Gilbertson, known to his colleagues as Gilby, has been working in outdoor recreation for 25 years. Now, his commitment, passion and positivity are in the spotlight as he competes for the title of Skills Active Aotearoa Apprentice of the Year.

Each year, this award goes to a high-potential apprentice with commitment, passion and diligence, who has the skills and qualifications to improve the wellbeing of New Zealanders, through the medium of sport, recreation or the performing arts.

As well as being a great tertiary training option for people starting out in their careers, apprenticeships are also used to formally recognise the skills and knowledge of highly experienced professionals who have not previously qualified in their field. This is the case for Gilby.

Gilby has worked in the UK, North Canterbury and the Abel Tasman, has taught secondary students, and has instructed at Outward Bound. These days his main job is as an outdoor instructor at the Whenua Iti Outdoor Pursuits Centre in Tasman.

After all those years of experience, Gilby wanted to further extend his skillset, which is why he chose to complete the Skills Active Multi-Activity Instructor apprenticeship, specialising in rock climbing, tramping and sea kayaking.

He says classroom environments haven’t suited his learning style in the past.

“I appreciated that the apprenticeship allowed me to showcase my skills and outdoor knowledge while being assessed, as I simply got on and did my job. It also helped me to reinvigorate my passion for the industry I work in.”

Gilby says the apprenticeship has deepened his technical knowledge in rock climbing, tramping and sea kayaking. It has also grown his self-confidence, and improved his teaching and coaching skills – which supports his overall mission to inspire his students “to be the best humans they can be”.

“I have learnt that with the right training and some self-belief, anything is possible,” Gilby says.

Of course, there are challenges to completing a programme of tertiary study while also working in a demanding job. He says the key to his success was always keeping up a positive attitude, and just focusing on one piece of work at a time.

Now, Gilby has a new mission. He says that in five years from now he hopes he will still be teaching students in the outdoors, but he’d also like to be training and assessing other outdoor instructors as well. 

About the Apprentice of the Year competition

Gilby is one of three candidates for the 2019 Skills Active Apprentice of the Year. The winner will be announced at the Recreation Conference in November. Check out our website to find out more about the other candidates!


Media contact for Skills Active

Esther McLaren

021 195 5127

About Skills Active

Skills Active Aotearoa is the industry training organisation for recreation, exercise, sport and performing arts. We are a non-profit organisation, 50% owned by Māori shareholders, and funded by government to promote careers and workforce development in our industries, work with those industries to create world-class qualifications, and support workplaces to train staff.