National Navigation Award Scheme
One award that we frequently see mentioned in CVs and application forms, especially from people who are just starting their outdoor careers, is the NNAS or National Navigation Award Scheme. Established back in 1994, the NNAS was designed to teach people how to improve their navigational abilities when out in the countryside. Available to people of all ages, the scheme is purely a skills based course and does not form any recognised qualification. Even so, it covers a lot of useful ground, if you will forgive the pun, and will give you a solid foundation and transferable knowledge if you plan to move on to some of the training courses offered by MLTUK (see below).
Who is NNAS for?
The NNAS scheme takes the same bronze, silver and gold approach as the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, with gold being the highest grade. What's great about the scheme is that the bronze part of NNAS is suitable for people whose current navigation skills may not extend much beyond finding their way to school or work and back each day. If, on the other hand, you already have some degree of map reading knowledge, or outdoor adventure experience, you may be able to skip past the bronze level. The best starting point although usually bronze, will be something to discuss with the course provider before you sign up. So far, more than forty five thousand people have benefited from the scheme and improved their navigational knowledge since its inception, twenty years ago.
Who offers the scheme?
The NNAS is currently offered by more than 400 accredited providers in the UK, a number which has been increasing year on year. These companies or individuals pay a yearly fee of £35 and as long as they meet the criteria and are approved by the NNAS committee, they can then offer the scheme to the general public. If you are interested in teaching the NNAS scheme yourself, then you should hold one or more relevant national governing body awards such the Basic Expedition Leader, a Mountain Leader Training qualification such as the Hill and Moorland Leader or Mountain Leader Award, or one of the British Orienteering Coach Awards. Clearly, if you wish to offer the gold version of the NNAS then you will need to be more qualified than if you only wish to offer the bronze level.
What does the NNAS scheme cover?
As you would expect, learning to navigate means making good use of maps, understanding compass readings and identifying features in the landscape. You will develop the skills to estimate and calculate distances, make use of rights of way, learn about access issues, and legislation affecting the countryside.
Course duration: 2 days
Course cost £100
Moving on to the silver and gold awards you will cover the same skills, but will also need to be able to demonstrate how to deal with difficult weather conditions, navigate on tougher terrain, and appreciate countryside management issues such as of access vs erosion.
One thing you will not be shown as part of the course is GPS based navigation. At OutdoorJAC we use a combination of GPS and OS maps every weekend, but it is knowing how to read the maps and how they apply to the landscape that helps us to navigate, not the GPS itself. This basic understanding of how to navigate is a really important part of being an outdoor instructor and why the NNAS is such a good scheme.
At the end of the course you can get a certificate and a metal pin badge, and as already mentioned, despite not being a formal qualification, it can still look impressive on your CV when applying for apprenticeship schemes or entry level outdoor instructor roles.
You can take the NNAS as a means to an end. If you are only interested in improving your personal outdoor skills for your own benefit then you may just wish to work through the different levels of the scheme. However, if you have ambitions to build a career in outdoor adventure where navigation plays a key role, then the next logical step would be one of the qualifications offered by Mountain Leader Training UK, who are one of the supporters of the NNAS scheme. See our article on Leadership Courses for Group Walking.