The $51B Industry
Earlier this spring, the Associated Press reported the news from a recent study: “Outdoor recreation accounts for $51.5 billion in consumer spending in New England, 432,000 jobs and $3.1 billion in state and local tax revenues.”
The need for professionals to work in this growing industry is there, and it is a need UNH is helping to fill.
Each summer, faculty in the outdoor education program in the UNH College of Health and Human Services used to get most of their calls seeking references for graduates who had applied for jobs in the sector.
“Now we get calls seeking applicants,” says associate professor Brent Bell '05G.
UNH’s outdoor education program is the only place in the nation where students can pursue bachelor’s degrees in kinesiology: outdoor education; master’s degrees in experiential education and doctorates in education specializing in experiential education — all connected to the same program. There is also the wilderness therapy program, where students work with the outdoor education program and social work department.
Climbing the Walls
“I find that UNH graduates have many job opportunities, and employers have actually been struggling to get employees in these adventure-based jobs,” he explains. “Our students tend to work in wilderness therapy programs as counselors, on challenge courses and as canoe guides and rock-climbing guides as well. Our graduates are filling these kind of jobs.”
The AP report points to a trend familiar to those in the outdoor education field.
“We expect recreational spending and jobs are going to increase in the future,” Bell says, adding, “Some forecasts suggest a 12-percent increase in that employment sector, which is something that is positive for our students.”
Looking to the future, this is a trend that is positive for New Hampshire and New England as well, Bell says, pointing to the way other states have capitalized on activities like bicycle tourism to add more money to their coffers.
“We have the potential to take advantage of those kinds of initiatives as a state and see returns,” he says.