Out of the darkness

Florence Orban, interim chief executive of the National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure, explains why the health and fitness industry may have grounds for optimism despite the general economic trend.

Florence Orban

According to predictions, as many as one in ten workers will be unemployed by 2010. This equates to over three million British people, a gloomy prospect indeed.

But it is not all doom and gloom. The good news is that the health and fitness industry appears to be bucking the trend of these current unemployment fears and is actually showing positive signs of growth. Figures from the FIA’s State of the Fitness Industry Report 2008 revealed a 2.6% increase in the estimated market value of the fitness industry year on year and these figures are forecast to rise.

With England hosting the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the launch of new initiatives, such as Change4Life, increasing the number of people participating in sport and active leisure, there is undoubtedly an abundance of future job opportunities available. Thanks to this increased awareness on getting the nation active and enthusiastic about sport, it is estimated that there will be 100,000 jobs to fill in the health and fitness industry by 2014. To this end, the National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure has a target to train 85,000 new entrants, existing staff and volunteers each year until  2013.
As a result, our industry is one of the few where there are currently some fantastic career opportunities on offer across the UK. Indeed a recent survey conducted by Lifetime has revealed that almost one in two people questioned (44%) believe the health and fitness industry offers one of the best rates of job security during the recession.

So how do potential candidates, such as school leavers and candidates from other sectors, go about entering the leisure industry? And how can employers benefit? The first point of call should, of course, be the National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure, which provides one single and coherent approach to skills training in the sector. All training, careers and qualifications are employer-led and employer-directed, ensuring better quality, more targeted training and better access to training funds. This results in an extremely ‘employable’ candidate upon successful completion of the training and/or qualification. This also means that the Skills Academy can help employers to get recruits with the right skills and at the same time cut recruitment costs.       

Since launching, we have awarded ‘approved provider’ status to seventeen training organisations in the sport, fitness and outdoor sector. These providers are leading the development and implementation of innovative training programmes to meet the needs of employers and the sector as a whole. Much of this training is government-funded, in the form of apprenticeships, from providers such as Lifetime and London Leisure College. Awarded the status of Centre of Excellence for Fitness for National Employers, Lifetime offers apprenticeships in fitness instructing and personal training. London Leisure College, awarded the status of centre of excellence in leisure operations for London, delivers apprenticeships in leisure operations and a range of qualifications, including the national pool lifeguard qualification (NPLQ) and those for first aid, pool plant operations, customer service and swimming teaching.

The University of Cumbria is the centre of excellence for outdoors in the North West and offers the outdoor apprenticeship programme, as well as short courses that meet some of the technical and delivery needs of the outdoor industry. Finally, Bradford Sports Consortium, centre of excellence in leadership and management for Yorkshire and the Humber, offers all levels of staff, from supervisors to CEOs, access to a mix of funded, accredited, non-accredited and bespoke training.

As a result, hundreds of people across the country are benefiting from high-quality, employer-led training and employers are benefiting from a steady stream of competent new recruits possessing the right knowledge and skills to ‘hit the ground running’ in their new job.

This year will see the Skills Academy continue to announce more approved providers that have the credibility and expertise to offer training to school leavers and career-changers alike so, while many sectors continue to struggle with the spectre of unemployment and gloomy future employment prospects, there are some truly outstanding training and career opportunities for those wishing to join the health and fitness industry at this exciting time.


Florence Orban is interim chief executive of the National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure. For more information on the National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure, visit www.sportactivensa.co.uk or for details on the Centre of Excellence for Fitness see www.lifetimehf.co.uk

For previous NSA columns and other articles in The Leisure Review visit the features page.

The Leisure Review, April 2009

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“Our industry is one of the few where there are currently some fantastic career opportunities on offer across the UK”

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