The IFMGA is the organization of all associations with an internationally recognized mountain guides training and has been existing for 50 years now. At the beginning the members were the classic countries where mountain guiding was practiced in the Alps: Switzerland, France, Austria, Italy and Germany. Over time also member countries from outside the Alps and also from outside Europe achieved this recognition and hence became members of the IFMGA: Great Britain, Norway, Canada, USA, Peru, Japan… After the European opening at the end of the 1980s soon also the countries of Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Slovenia joined our international organization as member associations. Currently the IFMGA has got 23 member associations from all continents. For years there have been made attempts by mountain guides and their associations to reach the international standard in particular from Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, but they have failed several times due to the missing organizational structures which are mostly a consequence of the small number of mountain guides in the different countries. Greece was for example a member that was not able to fulfil this status in the long run for these reasons and was therefore suspended. According to the currently valid bylaws and regulations it is only possible to become a member of the IFMGA if a national mountain guides association is founded in a country that sets up a recognized training system and association structures with the help of the IFMGA. Only if the mountain guides are trained according to international standard and also the association is able to organize these mountain guides and their training in a sustainable way and for years, a full membership within the IFMGA will be possible. This takes many years also in well organized countries with a relatively high number of interested people in being a mountain guide. But especially in countries with a small number of mountain guides that mostly also have financial difficulties and are rather weakly organized concerning their structure, this establishment does often fail also after several attempts. Certainly, there is however potential of capable mountain guides in these countries who don’t have any possibility – due to the above mentioned reasons – to follow an internationally recognized mountain guides training and to come to the possibility of a legal professional practice in the mountains of the world across this IFMGA recognition. The consequence is that these mountain guides still guide illegally in different sectors and therefore often put their guests and also themselves at risk. The IFMGA has been aware of this problem for years and for many years one has been thinking about a possibility to stop this tendency. On the occasion of the last general meeting of the IFMGA in fall 2014 in Norway the fundamental decision was now taken to create a new way of access for candidates from these countries to an internationally recognized mountain guides training.
The idea of the project is that an international training should be created under the direct control of the Technical Commission of the IFMGA where interested people may participate from countries that have no own national association that gives them the possibility to attend a training. The main focus will be on candidates from Eastern and South-Eastern European countries because the problem is the most serious there. The training shall correspond to the trainings in the currently recognized countries in all points. This level is defined in the platform of the IFMGA and described more in detail in the reference manual concerning the competences and skills for the training and certification of mountain guides. This level will be guaranteed by the fact that the training will be organized directly by the experts’ team of the Technical Commission of the IFMGA. These experts are experienced instructors from different member associations of the IFMGA who do not only shape their own national training system in responsible positions by international exchange programs, but also know different training systems of other countries. The candidates for this international training will pass the same path until they will be admitted to their mountain guide exam as it has been practiced in the current member associations for years. First there will be an admission test where everyone has to prove his personal skills as a mountaineer in the disciplines of rock climbing, ice climbing and alpine skiing. Additionally every candidate has to present a “curriculum vitae as an alpinist”, so that the experience in the different sectors of mountaineering may be assumed as existing. Subsequently the basic training up to the level of a mountain guide aspirant takes place in different summer and winter courses. Then every aspirant has to do a certain number of practical tours under the supervision of an experienced IFMGA mountain guide, in order to learn about the daily life in guiding and make experiences with clients. In the last part of the training until getting to the mountain guide exam the candidates will attend additional courses and acquire all competences that are necessary for the certification as a mountain guide. The standards of mountain guides trainings are specified in the platform of the IFMGA (appendix to this letter) and more detailed in the reference handbook for training and certification of guides. According to our experience it will probably be necessary for this special training to have a first look at the candidates in the different disciplines already before the entrance exam and to offer direct preparation and improvement courses for capable mountaineers in different sectors (f. ex. skiing), in order to make it possible to them to pass the entry exams and to have access to the training. First testings should already take place in winter 2015/2016 to evaluate the potential for this training. The participants of this training will probably come from different countries, from the Balkans to Bulgaria, Romania and the Baltic States. To make a common training actually possible and also to treat everybody equally and not to favour anybody concerning language due to his origin, it will basically be a training that is held in English. This is also important regarding the fact that everyone who wants to work as a mountain guide with international permit in the future, has to be able to speak at least English as a foreign language. Only like this the participants will consequently have the skills to organize and guide tours in the most different countries. Since the candidates from most of these countries will financially rather not be able to carry the full costs of this training system due to the low income situation in parts of this regions, it will get necessary to find additional financial sources for the organization and execution of the courses. These may be government subsidies of the different participating countries, maybe contributions from EU structural support funds or also money from private sponsors, especially from the sector of alpine equipment providers. The training shall in no case be offered for free to the participants, but it will be necessary to adapt the costs in relation to the current living expenses in the particular home country of the participants. We hope that this way it will not generally be impossible for interested people to participate in this training only due to financial reasons.
Subsequently, it will certainly be necessary to consider precisely how the participants of this training system will be organized later. Since the IFMGA is always only the umbrella organization of different mountain guide associations, the individual mountain guides may not be direct members of it. It always needs a professional association that supports the individual mountain guides in their work and also supervises their activities. Part of that are also the compulsory insurance and the obligation to attend regularly professional further educations which are prescribed for all mountain guides. Here it is imaginable that the participants get the possibility to become members of an already existing national member association of the IFMGA. It is also possible that existing member associations assume the function as sponsor countries and help to set up association structures for new member countries when a sufficient number of participants from a certain country has concluded the training after a certain time, so that it makes sense to found a national association. On the other hand it has to be considered if an independent “multi-national” mountain guide association shall be founded that is – under the supervision of the IFMGA – responsible for all these tasks for all those mountain guides who have no own association. This association would then assume the role of the national association for all these mountain guides and be present as a member association at the IFMGA. One of the tasks of this association is certainly also the supervision of the professional activities, the observance of the self-imposed rules of the „code of conduct“ including the duty of further education, control of the liability insurance, collecting the membership fees … Thereby it would as a consequence be guaranteed that the participants of this training also have an organization after their mountain guide exam that represents their rights and supports and controls their work.
Goals The primary goal of this project is the creation of a controlled way to training and to the international recognition for mountain guide candidates from countries that have no regulations up to now. As a result the awareness about this profession and the competences of a mountain guide shall also be improved in these countries. As a consequence, illegal guiding from these regions should diminish, because a legal training will be possible then and the participants will personally pay attention that the professional image of the mountain guide will be consolidated in their home countries. Finally it is above all the consumer who will benefit from this, because more safety during guiding work and consequently also more legal certainty will be created based on a professional and recognized training. Of course it can also be a possibility for current member countries of the IFMGA that have relatively few candidates to send their interested candidates from their country to the international IFMGA training, because they are only able to organize training courses from time to time. Of course these associations are strongly interested in integrating also their own instructors in the new structure! If this project works well, we can consider to realize similar models in the future also in other regions such as for example Asia or South Africa. We get more and more requests also from mountaineers from countries like India, Iran, China, Pakistan … who would like to become mountain guides and have no working structures for that in their home countries.
The information about the possibility to take part in this new training should be spread in the different countries. Interested alpinists can get in touch with the IFMGA without commitment in the next months, then we have the number of potential participants and we can organize the date and place of the first tests. The candidates will then get detailed informations about schedules, costs, places where the courses will take place etc. and after this they can decide to subscribe to the entry tests and the training course.
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