Case Study: High School Practicums Result in Employable Skills

For students wanting an outdoor work experience, a week practicum at Horne Lake Provincial Park with Island Pacific Adventures Ltd. offers all the fun of being at camp. It also serves as an opportunity for students to be treated like a working adult.

Between 30 and 40 Vancouver Island high school students fulfill their graduation requirement each year by spending seven days—under the guidance and supervision of certified BC Parks Cave Guides—learning how to be an assistant guide.

Richard Varela, Program Director of Island Pacific Adventures Ltd. can tell you that the student practicums are a great confidence building work experience. He sees students make the transition from high school into the adult world of work in just seven days.


Under the constant supervision of a certified guide, students:

  • observe the tour hands-on as a back-up guide
  • study the guide manual and continue to observe the tour
  • try to deliver parts of the tour
  • take on a leadership role as the week progresses
  • lead the tour by the end of the week


Three to four students arrive every Thursday morning between the months of June to September.

Staff members that were hired for the season are kept motivated by taking on students and giving them hands-on training. Richard encourages his employees to strengthen their leadership skills by training students one-on-one. According to Richard, “It keeps employee standards high.”

For the seven days that students are at Horne Lake, they get an inside look at how guiding operations work. They eat, sleep and breathe the training manual covering:

  1. Professionalism
  2. Geology
  3. Vocal tour presentations
  4. Excellence in customer service


At the end of seven days, students have completed the assistant guide practicum. The benefits to students are:

  • getting a week of free summer camp
  • meeting their graduation requirement
  • working beside a trained guide as an equal
  • acquiring work experience to put on their resume (BC Park Ranger Training)
  • having the chance to be hired back for up to eight weeks pay in the summer

As Richard tells us, students have fun but they must work hard over the seven days to learn a new skill that lets them deliver a tour in front of the general public.

Parents and school officials alike approve the safe working experience that teaches students a valuable skill in BC’s tourism industry. Best of all, those that excel in their practicums are given the chance to come back in the summer to become certified guides with additional training.


The high school practicums are just another way that Richard can invest in his employees, encouraging them to build upon their leadership skills while placed in a mentoring role. It’s a win-win. According to Richard, “Students are exposed to a quality program sparking an interest in the tourism industry and generating a pool of local people to hire from in the future.”