5 July 2011

Jemma Pearce is the recruitment marketing executive at PGL, which offers career breakers paid work abroad.

How long have you been working at PGL?

Just over 7 years!

Tell us about your background

After university, I worked summers in the US on a ranch, as an instructor and administrator in France and Italy, and ski-repped in the winter – not for PGL, for another company. I decided after a few years I needed to put my degree to good use and came back to the UK. My housemate, who was a snowboard instructor, thought being a peak season ski rep was a great way keep a hand in the industry. I spoke to a PGL rep who’d come out to the resort [where I was working], and they said to keep an eye on their website for jobs at PGL’s head office, and a couple of months later my job was advertised!

PGL ski rep


What kind of career breakers work for PGL?

We get people who went to university and did their teacher training, who then don’t necessarily want to start straight away working as a teacher, they want some experience working with children first. That’s essentially a mini career break, as they haven’t started their career yet, they want to do something more hands-on first.

The other side of that is people who went straight into teaching or youth work after uni, who come on a PGL trip as a teacher [with school], they see the benefits and how our activities can enhance their relationships with the children and then they decide to come and work for us for a season, as a break from teaching.

We’re increasingly actually getting a number of people who’ve been made redundant from their regular job roles, who might have a bit of financial backing behind them and want to put something back. They want to work with children and live in an amazing location abroad, something that they might not have had time to do when they were younger but as they’ve got older, decided now’s the time to do it. So it’s all very different really!

What training or qualifications do you need?

PGL will train you! Everybody who joins us with little or no previous experience does the PGL apprenticeship programme, which leads to the Level 2 award in Introductory Work in the Outdoors, awarded by the National Open College Network [recognised by other organisations as well]. Then at the second level you can apply to do the NVQ. The qualifications are in active leisure and learning hospitality or customer service – you can get your national governing awards for coaching specific sports as well.

Getting an NVQ through PGL is a great way to get qualifications while working. You only have to work 2 seasons to get your NVQ, you do it at your own pace. In the 3rd season you can apply for a supervisory role and you can apply for the advanced apprenticeship programme, which gives you your NVQ Level 3.

PGL rock climbing instructors and kids


What kind of experience is needed?

Applicants need some experience working with children in a role that is guest-facing. If you are thinking about it, you would need to get some experience volunteering with a youth group in your spare time, or cubs, or a football team.

If you have other work experience, you could work in an admin role. One guy comes and works in catering because he’s passionate about windsurfing – he doesn’t want to teach it as he doesn’t want to teach taster sessions but he gets to live by a lake where he can windsurf in his free time and in between shifts. Support work [eg admin, catering, driving] can be a means to fund yourself in that location.

What kinds of questions do career breakers ask?

We get asked if people can bring their pets or families. They can’t really, you might be sharing accommodation!

We get people saying “I’m 30, I’m too old aren’t I?” No, here age is very much just a number, we’re definitely more focused on attitudes and people’s approach to life. If you’re a young thinker, you’ll fit right in. Nobody looks their real age though! The oldest person working for us is 67, he’s working in France now. We wrote a special staff insurance policy because he was over 65.

PGL older staff member


What's the most important thing for a career breaker to know about working for PGL?

It’s a lifestyle choice, working for PGL, you’ll be sharing accommodation, working long hours (42 a week over 6 days). Essentially, you’re not going to be rich but you’ll be comfortably off, you don’t need to spend any money, meals are provided, transport is provided, you don’t have any bills to pay. Absolutely you have to like kids, it does help! Although it’s not so important for support roles. Also being able to get on with other people, you’re living and working in each other’s pockets. Basically have a very open mind.

What’s your favourite PGL centre?

I would say I like La Fosca, that’s our centre in Spain because it’s on the Costa Brava with an amazing aqua marine sea, it’s gorgeous. Château du Tertre, in Normandy, that’s a converted château with a trench from WWII running down the side of it!

Tell us something we don't know

Summer camp jobs are not just for the summer, it’s not just June, July and August. We need people who can work from February to October or November. We used to get 4,000 applications each year just for the summer months, but our guest members actually stay the same. We get school groups term-time and Easter, and families and unaccompanied children in the summer. So if you’re only available in the summer it’s not so good, but it’s great if you’re on a career break!

PGL instructors laughing together in the sunshine


Jemma was talking to Rachel Morgan-Trimmer of The Career Break Site. PGL is a company that is vetted and approved by us. For more about working abroad, visit www.pgl.co.uk/careerbreak.