An outdoor activity specialist is struggling to find staff to fill more than a dozen vacancies as it gears up for a “massive” year.
Audley-based Peak says it cannot recruit enough staff to meet the increasing demand at its outdoor activity and education centres after scores of workers left the sector during lockdown.
Now the company fears the shortages in staff and equipment will mean it cannot operate to its full potential despite its expectations of a very busy year.
Established over 20 years ago, Peak employs 230 full-time staff nationwide.
Its sites include Trentham Treetop Adventures, Audley Climbing Centre and Astbury Water Sports Centre near Congleton as well as the Trafford Watersports Centre and Trafford Treetops Adventures near Manchester and Underbank Activity Centre in Sheffield.
More recently, Peak took on the Chasewater Outdoor Centre, in Burntwood, which is due to re-open later this month.
The company operates across four sectors which includes outdoor adventures – including watersports, land activities and climbing. It also provides education at four independent, Ofsted-registered schools and is the UK’s largest provider of the expeditions section of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.
Last year, Peak entered the retail market when it opened its first shop at the Trentham Estate, selling a range of products for keen cyclists and runners including e-bikes, clothing and accessories.
Managing director Paul Ball said: “There is a national shortage of staff across the industry, everybody is struggling to find staff with the appropriate qualifications who can help to meet the workload we are expecting this summer – with or without restrictions.
“The industry is so highly regulated, we need staff with the right qualifications to be able to deliver the activities we provide, so we only really have access to a specialist pool of staff.
“We are preparing for an onslaught of people who are desperate to get back out, but it’s a challenge.”
Paul says that the pandemic-related closures of residential centres such as those run by Peak has seen many outdoor instructors – who have been unable to work for nearly 18 months – find new jobs in other sectors, such as delivery driving, retail and warehousing.
While supply for new recruits from colleges has also slowed, meaning fewer people have been able to get instructor qualifications.
Paul said: “Historically, the industry is very seasonal so a lot of employees tend to work on a freelance basis so they can work in the UK during the summer and go off to a ski resort during the winter.
“But since Covid, all of that has stopped and those people have since found new jobs in different sectors and now they’re perhaps afraid to come back into the industry because of the potential of another lockdown.
“We would also usually pick up some young people who have just started in the industry through places like Reaseheath College but those courses obviously haven’t been running.”
He added: “One of the other challenges we are facing is equipment. There’s a massive shortfall of components for things like bikes, which are manufactured in China, and we’re going to have to wait for weeks for them.
“Our centres are already filling up for the summer and are anticipating a massive year, which is obviously fantastic, but my belief is that we won’t be able to take advantage of it because of the shortages we are facing in both staff and equipment. It is going to get to a point where we will hit a ceiling and we will only be able to operate at a certain level.”
As part of efforts to tackle the skills shortage in the industry, Paul is in talks with other businesses in sector about the creation of an apprenticeship scheme which we see them train their own staff from the beginning.
In the meantime, Peak currently has more than a dozen job vacancies on its website, including outdoor activity instructors, expedition assessors, catering and receptionist roles.
Visit peak.co.uk for more information.