One of the major “perks” of working as a field instructor, guide, or senior staff in the outdoor education and adventure-based programming sector of the outdoor industry used to be an offer of free or low-cost housing. Today, that incentive is more elusive, both for employees at our peer organizations and the staff we hire here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE).
Affordable staff housing — or the lack thereof — tops the list of major financial issues facing those of us who oversee the experiential education programs we run at NCOAE. Our instructors and staff come from around the globe to teach and facilitate our outdoor adventure and education programs. And for us, it has always been important that when they arrive on campus, we attempt to make sure the stress of basic needs does not overshadow the joy of the work.
Carolina Beach, North Carolina, is the closest residential area to NCOAE headquarters, featuring rents that average $1,500 a month. That’s not outrageous if you’re earning $50,000 a year and you consider 30 percent of income for rent as the gold standard for conservative budget management.
But ours is a seasonal business, and part of the problem our sector of the outdoor industry faces is that our staffers don’t make 50 grand a year. In addition, most outdoor education facilities are located in beautiful areas near state and national parks, mountains, beaches, lakes, and other open recreational spaces. Obviously, real estate and rental accommodations are much more costly in such places.
Outdoor Educators Consistently Lack Affordable Housing Options
Fortunately, NCOAE is not located in an area where rent and income gaps are so disparate that staff must move to other locations to survive. However, at the end of the day we are (more…)