The Chief wrote:
Please fill us all in on the evolution of the AMGA, it's course prereq's and it's course prices since '88 when I first got involved with them.
Please do also tell us all on why the AMGA no longer Grandfather's any of it's prereq's.
Oh yeah, and why the AMGA is seriously considering disqualifying any AMGA Qualed Guide/Instructor/Member that participates/affiliates themselves with any PCGI Courses.
Hi The Chief,
It appears that you might know more on these subjects than I do. Way back in '88 I believe the organization was called the APMGA, where "P" stood for Professional. For some reason they took the P out, so therein may lie the problem... Although a Swiss guide friend of mine in WA owns an operation called "Pro Guiding Service." A mutual friend once told him, "Don't you know that anything called 'Pro' really isn't?" Maybe that is why the AMGA removed it. Ironically, the PCGI now carries that torch.
I am no absolute authority on the AMGA, only involved as an instructor and Technical Committee member for several years now. But since you asked of behalf of all of the SP'ers that I hope to befriend...
The American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) that we are talking about is a professional trade organization of Rock, Alpine, and Ski Guides. The AMGA has spent the last couple of decades developing minimum guide competency standards and certifying guides to that standard. Under direct supervision of the ACMG (Canada), the AMGA's programs were recognized by the international guiding community (UIAGM/IFMGA/IVBV) in 1997. This was a milestone for the organization as it signified the development of American guide training and certification standards to an international level. More importantly, American guides were given the opportunity to become international guides, with license to operate in over 20 member countries worldwide. This was the AMGA's first link between certification and guiding access. When I was internationally certified through the AMGA there were less than 20 of us. There are currently over 60 American IFMGA Mountain Guides.
Regarding course prices and prerequisites, once the AMGA was accepted into the IFMGA it was shouldered with a responsibility to keep guide certification standards high. As with any newly formed professional credential, the AMGA grandfathered (certification by resume) a number of veteran American guides. Many of these guides were figureheads and icons such as Yvon Chouinard, John Fischer, George Dunn, Doug Robinson, etc. Some were active guides, some not. It is unknown how many of them were in any condition to pass a modern guides exam, but the reason for grandfathering was to allow these important professionals to be involved with the new program. Full disclosure is that the AMGA went through 3 rounds of this grandfathering process before they finally put a final end to it around 1999.
Anyway, to answer your question, course prices and prerequisites have since increased substantially since the beginning. This is because it was evident that the courses were insufficient for teaching guides to achieve international performance standards. By comparison the French guide college is a 4 year program costing around 20,000 Euros. On the Technical Committee, we realized that unless we compromised the certification exam standards, which would be unfavorable to the industry and the international community, we were going to see continued high failure rates. This caused the Tech Comm to re-evaluate the course structure which was completely revamped in 2007 to better meet student needs, IFMGA regulations, and also added an Aspirant qualification program that allows for paid mentorship and on-the-job training for aspiring international guides. There has been a lot of collaborative work done by some of the best and brightest guides in the country to make this all happen. The evolution continues as we blog.
So, it would appear that gone are the old days of cheap, and low-value guide training and certification... enter the PCGI and PCIA. Admittedly, as an AMGA supporter, I find the AMGA a far from perfect professional organization. Sometimes it's actions/inactions have even upset me to the point that I have seriously contemplated starting and joining an alternate organization. A small group of us actually started to do just that back in 2000 when I was dissatisfied with AMGA policies regarding access in the US. The founders of both the PCGI and PCIA have followed through where we did not - they have created alternative organizations and credentials out of dissatisfaction with the AMGA.
These organizations publicly attack the AMGA in their marketing materials to promote their interests. They undercut the AMGA on cost, add confusion to the marketplace, and increase conflict at a time where American guides should be showing solidarity in order to promote certification to the public, the industry, and the land managers who control commercial guiding permits. The efforts of these two organizations threaten the success of the AMGA for American guides, so although I do not support the AMGA alienating its members, I can see why they would be considering severe measures to neutralize these threats.
What is very sad about the PCGI and PCIA is that they are both comprised of some very talented and bright people. They are guides, friends, and colleagues. They share our passion for the profession and for taking people to the mountains. Most of the people involved are even AMGA trained or certified in at least one guiding discipline. I am not sure why they do not come to the table and share their feedback and innovations with the rest of us to make a better collective organization. I can only assume that there is too much ego or personal opportunity at stake.
Ultimately, the AMGA will prevail as long as it maintains the support of the IFMGA. The opportunity that international access, and possibly future access domestically, presents is exciting for American guides. This is shown in the increasing numbers of aspiring guides now in the program. In a recent Rock Guides Course, the first in the training progression, a poll I took showed 100% interest in pursuing international level certification in all 3 guiding disciplines. That does not surprise me.
Hope this helps answer questions for anybody interested enough to actually read this!