Why professionalism pays
Employers require it, businesses thrive on it and individuals earn more as a result of it. So why, wonders Florence Orban, is training so often under fire?
Despite the current economic challenges facing UK industry, employment in the sport and active leisure sector continues to grow. Handling such growth, however, remains constrained by a workforce with a low skills base and this poses a major hurdle for employers.
Twenty per cent of the industry’s 36,500 organisations report skills gaps. Worryingly, 29% of the leisure workforce is not qualified up to Level 2 NVQ or equivalent – a basic requirement. And at Level 2/3 our workforce lacks technical qualifications in areas such as health and safety, lifeguarding, plant operation and stewarding; we have a massive 79% shortfall in basic customer service skills. Finally, some 69% of our managers lack business skills at Level 3/4 and many more do not possess a professional qualification.
So not surprisingly, one of the key aims of the National Skills Academy is to professionalise and upskill the existing workforce. But just how important is professionalism? Some people are quick to argue that leaders are born, not made, thus suggesting that professionalism does not matter. This view implies that skills cannot be developed and it ultimately paints a worrying picture of where businesses in the UK are heading. On the contrary, I believe that professionalism is incredibly important. It is a key priority for the Skills Academy and we are working extremely hard to promote and improve it.
To this end, we offer a range of courses leading to professional qualifications including the Level 2 Fitness Instructor and Level 3 Personal Trainer Awards. In addition, the CMI Level 2 in Team Leading (Award, Certificate and Diploma) is one of a series of new progressive management qualifications designed by the Chartered Management Institute. The qualification is designed for people who have line management responsibility for a small team.
Indeed, two-thirds of employers questioned in a recent Chartered Management Institute survey argued that having qualified managers leads to productivity gains. The majority also suggested that providing opportunities to gain qualifications gives an organisation an enhanced professional reputation. Furthermore, a recent report from London Economics underlines the value, for both individuals and employers, of possessing a professional qualification. Based on analysis of Labour Force survey data over six consecutive quarters, the report shows that individuals stand to boost their earnings by achieving ‘professional status’. In today’s money terms, an individual’s lifetime economic benefit from holding professional qualifications and membership has been calculated at £152,000. In addition, individuals with professional recognition enjoy a 37% earnings premium over their colleagues and a 9% increase in the probability of being employed. Put in the context of a tightening UK labour market, it quickly becomes evident that professionalism pays.
And it’s not just about the individual’s personal development; for each manager or leader undertaking a professional qualification, a contribution is made to the effectiveness of the workforce as a whole. After all, professional qualifications are not about learning in isolation: they focus on practical application. This means that what individuals learn, they take back to the workplace and transmit to other members of the team.
So while there is a natural temptation to cut training costs in the current economic climate, the long-term benefits of developing these transferable skills across teams must be seen for what they are – an investment in the medium- and long-term future of organisations. It is vital that we continue to professionalise our workforce in sport and active leisure – not just for the significant benefits to the individual, as well as the organisation, but also so that our sector is perceived as increasingly credible by the general public.
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, May 2009
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