In collaboration with THE PRO Course provider ALLIANCE
The Pro Training Program provides expert educational resources for professionals looking to gain or refresh vital skill sets.
In October 2013 the American Avalanche Association hosted a meeting with a cross-section of avalanche industry representatives to discuss the question “Is there a need to revise the framework of avalanche education in the United States?” The group identified the following areas for improvement within the existing system:
- Existing avalanche education courses mix professional and recreational students, particularly in Level 2 classes; separate courses for professionals and recreationists may better meet the training needs of both groups.
- Students in current Level 2 courses are not tested; a thorough evaluation process could allow for demonstration of course comprehension and skill development, especially valuable for professionals.
- Some existing professional-level courses have parallel topics and learning outcomes yet no clear measure of equivalency; a common system for professional training could increase course consistency and provide clear course equivalencies.
- Without a single, clear training progression it can be difficult for employers to evaluate the skills of prospective employees, and can sometimes result in redundant training; again, a common system for professional training could address these challenges.
- Increased consistency in professional training could help improve workplace safety.
The participants at this meeting concluded that separate professional and recreational avalanche training streams could better achieve course outcomes and meet distinct training needs for both groups. A3 stepped into a leadership role to spearhead this project at the request of meeting participants. Stakeholders who have helped develop the Pro Training Program acknowledge the need to embrace common training standards and support course consistency in order to better serve the interests of the avalanche industry, education, and workplace safety.
U.S. PRO TRAINING PROVIDER GUIDELINES
An A3-facilitated working group, that included representatives from each of the current major providers of professional avalanche training, produced an initial proposal that was presented to the industry for review and feedback in fall of 2014. Subsequently, A3 Pro Training Program was developed with extensive and continued collaboration and input from course providers and other stakeholders from around the industry. The resulting Pro Training courses will be offered by A3-approved Pro Course Providers beginning winter 2017/18.
The A3 Pro Training Program is an industry-designed program that is an important piece in the training puzzle to help our industry continue to improve on our collective professionalism. A3’s program complements in-house training opportunities, specific on-the-job experience, ongoing professional mentorship, and other sources of continuing professional development. It is important to note that the Pro Training Program does not replace these other integral pieces of the professional avalanche training puzzle but, rather, works in a collaborative, complementary manner to increase the effectiveness of all training for avalanche professionals. With the development and launch of this new program, A3 and stakeholders are not saying that prior training and experience are not valuable or relevant; we are saying that we can do better as an industry as we move into the future. The following documents pertain to avalanche education providers. For student-related information, please visit avalanche.org.
PRO TRAINING F.A.Q.
What are the new Pro Training courses?
Pro 1 Course: This course focuses on skills and proficiencies to enable the student to be a contributing member of an operational avalanche program. The student will be taught the proficiencies to be a skilled observer and to contribute opinions during risk management discussions. Minimum Course Length: 5 days. Pro 2 Course: This course focuses on skills and proficiencies that enable the student to step into a leadership role within an operational avalanche program. The student will be taught proficiencies to develop operational risk management decision-making skills, including forecasting, risk mitigation strategies, and professional communication. Minimum Course Length: 6 days. ProSAR Course: Specific skills and proficiencies of the ProSAR course are currently being finalized. A3 anticipates that these courses will become an official part of the Pro Training Program starting in winter 2018/19. For specific details on skills, proficiencies, and evaluation standards see the above corresponding guideline documents.
Why is A3 responsible for the Pro Training Program?
A3 is the organization in the United States that connects, engages with, and shares information amongst avalanche professionals from all segments of the industry and across all regions of the country. Since 1999, A3 has published avalanche education guidelines for the U.S. and has provided unification and direction for a broad range of avalanche education and training organizations. A3 has spearheaded efforts to develop this new avalanche education paradigm, drawing stakeholders together from across the country to collaborate on Pro Training Program vision and details. A3’s role as a connector and unifier within the industry enables the organization to maintain a broad view of what may be best for the avalanche industry as a whole and makes A3 a natural fit to oversee the Pro Training Program.
What are the changes?
A3 Guidelines for Avalanche Education in the United States continue to provide a common benchmark for recreational avalanche courses. These guidelines address Avalanche Awareness, Level 1 Avalanche Training (Level 1), Avalanche Rescue, and Level 2 Avalanche Training (Level 2). A3 recommends that all winter backcountry users begin their training with Avalanche Awareness (optional), Level 1, and Avalanche Rescue courses. The split in the training progressions for recreationists and professionals follows these common trainings, to better serve the particular training and skill development needs of each group (see graphic training diagram in main content). The Level 2 is the next step for recreationalists, emphasizing advanced decision-making, small-group leadership, providing focused mentorship traveling in challenging and complex avalanche terrain. This course is recommended for all advancing recreationists who continue to travel in the backcountry after their Level 1 course. Current and aspiring avalanche professionals proceed to the Professional Avalanche Training 1 (Pro 1) course after the Level 1 and Avalanche Rescue courses. The Pro 1 focuses on skill development that enables the student to be a contributing member of an operational avalanche program. The Professional Avalanche Training 2 (Pro 2) focuses on skill development that supports the student moving into a leadership role within an operational avalanche program. All Pro Training courses will involve a pass/fail evaluation process. Proficient students will receive a course certificate from A3 and their course provider. A3 will stand behind the course certificate of a proficient student as long as that person maintains current membership with A3 and completes any recommended Continuing Professional Development.
Who should take Pro Courses?
As the professional avalanche community in the U.S. makes the transition over the next few years from the existing system, the new A3 Pro Training courses - the Pro 1, Pro 2, and ProSAR courses - offer valuable, relevant skill development for avalanche workers at a variety of points in their careers. These programs provide a clear path for avalanche workers just entering the industry, as well as serve as excellent resources for seasoned professionals to gain the most current updates and refresh their skills. Professional Avalanche Training 1 (Pro 1) is appropriate for entry-level avalanche professionals newly employed or seeking employment within the industry as well as seasoned avalanche professionals who wish to refresh their skills and get up to speed with current updates and practices. Professional Avalanche Training 2 (Pro 2) is designed for developing avalanche professionals with several seasons of applied professional experience as well as seasoned professionals who are looking to develop skills applicable to leadership roles within their operation. The Professional Avalanche Search and Rescue (ProAvSAR) course stands alone to support professional SAR programs and operations. ProSAR students may or may not have taken another course in the Pro Training progression. Anticipated ProAvSAR launch for winter 2018/19.
I work as an avalanche professional. Will my prior training and experience be recognized?
Yes! A3 recognizes and values the experience and training of current avalanche professionals. We’re all coming from that previous system where a LOT of variability exists in formal and informal training and professional paths. A3 defined a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) process and table of recognized training equivalencies to help bridge between the old and new systems. Ultimately, A3 seeks to be as inclusive as possible in applying these tools while still maintaining a level of consistency that supports the transition to the new system. Individuals who believe they have equivalent training and experience can apply to the A3 for a PLA review if/as needed for pro course enrollment and/or to fulfill a requirement of employment. See the Prior Learning Assessment Document for specific details.
How do I transfer into the new system? What is the Bridge Course?
The Pro 1 Bridge course is an opportunity for individuals who currently have a Level 2 (in the “old” system of avalanche education) to gain recognition in the new Pro Training Program at the Pro 1 level. A3-approved Pro Course Providers will offer these 1.5-2 day courses starting in the 2017/18 winter season. The focus of the Pro 1 Bridge will be on evaluating the skills of each student at the Pro 1 standard. A student planning to participate in a Pro 1 Bridge course MUST be familiar with the Pro 1 evaluation standards and practiced with the techniques that will be evaluated during the condensed course. Course providers may provide specific pre-course materials to help ensure students are prepared to demonstrate their competency during the Pro 1 Bridge course. Prior practice and preparation are essential to successfully passing a Pro 1 Bridge course and gaining recognized equivalency at the Pro 1 standard. Visit avalanche.org for additional student-related information.