Lantra Instructor Awards -
Best Newcomer Chris Putt
spotlights lifelong learning

2023 is proving a landmark one for Chris. Named Best Newcomer at Lantra’s inaugural Instructor Excellence Awards, held at Stoneleigh Park in June, he says the distinction has “assisted me massively with my career”, adding: “Lantra has been really supportive in helping me gain more Instructor skills.”


Working with Lantra since 2018, Chris at 36 is already a high achiever, running his own fleet of 4x4 vehicles, Quad Bikes and side by side ATVs for demonstrating to course participants. He also trains and assesses staff for Mercedes-Benz World, using off-road vehicles at the manufacturer’s centre at the Brooklands World Heritage Site, and delivers for Lantra to mountain rescue teams.


“Lantra’s 4x4 and ATV courses are widely recognised and respected as the benchmark of competency for operators. They’ve been forward-thinking in adapting course content to reflect recent advances in technology,” Chris says, “such as how electric and hybrid propulsion systems affect what operators do.”


Chris not only Instructs for Lantra, he is also a technical verifier, advising the land-based industries awarding body on how their own Instructor network teach the ins and outs of 4x4 vehicles. Given his deep experience of such kit, he’s amply qualified to train and assess Instructors on them.


‘Newcomer’ may seem a bit of a misnomer when Chris tells of his working journey to date. “I started instructing when I was 18,” he recalls, “as a whitewater rafting and canyon guide in the UK and a season in Australia.  The 2008 financial crash impacted me and I switched to technical rescue, mostly training fire brigades in water rescue operations.”


He had also found time to take a degree in Outdoor Environmental Education – a highly relevant subject for his work -  from John Moores University Liverpool. “That was me done with the academic side for the time being,” he adds.  “I fair far better outdoors.”


With his love of kayaking and climbing, safety always looms large for Chris, a system for survival that runs through his instructor work. “I already hold NEBOSH in health and safety and may well go for chartered IOSH at some stage,” he notes.


While instructing in Scotland in 2010, Chris met his wife-to-be Leanne, the business backbone for their company, Off-Road Consultancy. “She makes it all happen,” he says. “I deliver the training and maintain the vehicles, Leanne handles everything else. We can use our own kit for training or if possible, use clients’ as they are more familiar with it, pointing out the differences in ATVs and critical health and safety aspects of driving them.”


Before that though, Chris had taken an employed role in the water sector as a hydrometric engineer, monitoring river flow and fitting flood monitoring equipment, also becoming health and safety advisor.


“I’d taken on too much work and had to rethink my way forward. “I took four months off to re-evaluate exactly what I was best at and what I wanted to be,” he recalls. “My future was in training rather than water. My previous job roles have almost all involved instructing and driving off-road vehicles, so it seemed logical to become qualified to instruct using 4x4, ATVs and winching.”


“Setting up initially as a freelance Instructor working for various training providers, I decided to set up Off Road Consultancy to be more in control of our destiny, choosing your own pace and direction. You recoup the rewards of your hard work.”


Offers of full-time work come his way – a mark of his success – but Chris has refused them all. “I’m established in what I do now,” he states.


‘Youngest Technical Verifier’ and ‘Second Youngest Lantra Instructor’ both signal someone making their mark in their chosen profession. “The industry needs a balance of Instructors, both male and female and from a variety of backgrounds, across a range of ages,” Chris argues, “to guide newcomers and also to act as peer groups and present a face in keeping with modern society.


“It’s also key for Instructors to be able to engage with every kind of trainee – to underpin their grounding in technical knowledge with the skills to explain it in different ways to suit their audience.


“You never stop learning. Every day is different and I gain great joy in watching other trainers train – how different customer groups react to different Instructors.”


Some older Assessors and Verifiers inspired Chris to progress, he says. “My technical Verifier who assessed me was great – the whole process went smoothly and I prepared myself meticulously for it.


“I respect some of the longer-serving Instructors for their wealth of knowledge. It’s vital to keep learning - the moment you stop it’s the end.


“Also though, you can find that you’re seen as ‘the young lad’ of the industry – you’re stigmatised I suppose and that made me question myself - but inspired me to push myself harder still. That made the business what it is and me what I am.”


Chris is already acting to encourage more Instructors into the Lantra network and is eyeing up three potentials, having already inspired one in Scotland to join. “For farmers and foresters fed up of the outdoors, instructing offers something physically less hard. My advice to those seeking to become Instructors is that it isn’t always enough to do your research on interview techniques.


Chris is ambitious for Lantra too – “the ticket into other industries, like training machine operators for the rail and civil engineering sectors. Time to spread the name further afield. “The beauty of the Lantra network is that you can utilise it how you want. If you’re a good Instructor, you’ll be in demand.”


Success breeds success as they say and Chris Putt certainly fits into that formula. As a thriving small. business though, one operational factor is always front of mind. “Cashflow is the biggest issue – it can cause us worry; when will clients pay? When you’re building a business you have to invest in it and good cashflow really helps you do that.


“And your machinery has to be up to scratch. If it’s out of commission, it cannot be hired, so to ensure 100% availability, sometimes you have to double up.”


He ends by recalling his father’s advice. “Dad was a health and safety specialist and he always said: ‘Don’t tell me why you can’t, tell me what you need to make sure you can – safely’.  I try to apply that principle to everything I do.”