Edition number 1; dateline 21 September 2007

Investing in quality and fighting for value

Some correspondents of this worthy publication are viewing our world from the back row, from the sideline or even, I guess, from the bar but after many years in the sport and leisure industry both my body and mind have decided they need the therapeutic effects of hot water and alcohol, often at the same time. Therefore, I offer the View from the Hot Tub.

The tub (even without the alcohol) can produce many emotions, ranging from chilled and mellow through to hot and bubbly. However, as I begin to contemplate the value we place on training our workforce, which is it to be? The answer is, I think, a bit of both.

Here I must declare an interest as I am directly involved in the design and delivery of training but this does give me the opportunity to look closely at this issue and indeed drives my interest in the subject.

Have you ever found yourself saying, ‘I can’t afford that amount of money for training staff or volunteers’ or ‘I can’t afford time away from the real job for training’? I bet you have; I know I have in the past. In addition, have you also had conversations with yourself (a true sign you are too long in this industry) which, having agreed with yourself that training is important, debate how much this training is going to cost you and finally decide, ‘I can’t afford that’?

I guess my question is this: is it that we genuinely cannot afford training or is it just that we don’t want to afford it? In addition, shouldn’t there be more money allocated to training, not only from both our own pots but also from central government, particularly if they really mean what they say about delivering a legacy from the Olympics, volunteering, the value of sport, etc. As an example, SportsCoach UK, of whom I am generally a big fan, say in the UK Coaching Framework that the aim is to have a ‘world’s best coaching structure’. In order to achieve this (and although it’s challenging I think we can) we need the best coach educators, we need to act on research into coach education and development, and we need to ensure that coaches are valued. If in front of the word ‘coach’ we place the word ‘business’ instead of ‘sport’, would we get the best in the world for £15 per hour? Try £150 per hour and we might be somewhere near.

When buying training, before you let the words “I’m not paying that” slip out, consider how much it costs to design that training, how much it costs to train the trainer, how much it costs to develop the resource, how much experience has gone into its development. “OK, OK,” I hear you muttering, “I don’t care. I have my budgets to consider.” So also consider whether by taking that training you will speed the delivery of an outcome, which in turn will save you money and help you achieve your targets more effectively. Is it now good value for money?

My point I suppose is that instead of trying to reduce the cost of training and development by reducing the pay of all involved (including writers, researchers, tutor trainers, assessors, verifiers, etc) we should really be looking to find the funding to pay for the very best and deliver the best so that it doesn’t cost the end user a fortune but it does give us a result that we want.

It is not all about direct spend either: it is about allowing yourself time for development. I hear too often, “I can only stay for a little while; I have to get back to running around looking busy”. Remember, by spending time on your own or your staff’s development your work will become more efficient. Value yourself by giving yourself some time for this part of your work.

So have the bubbles and warm water calmed me as I contemplate this subject? Well, yes, up to a point. I am still passionate about ensuring we pay for the best but, having travelled to a number of countries around our world of sport, I can say that, if we choose to use them, we do have some of the very best people in this country in terms of delivery of sport and leisure activities and training, so at least we are off the starting blocks. Let’s not waste our current resource by undervaluing what they can do,  especially if they are trained effectively, for the communities in which we all live and work.

A last thought. You are probably one of those undervalued resources. Do you want your wages and resources to be reduced? That’s what you are doing every time you want to cut the cost of training. Let’s not keep perpetuating this problem by always looking to cut things. Let us celebrate what we have and find a way to ensure we can make it better – fight for our value!

Kay Adkins is an executive board member of a county sport partnership, chair of a CSN and a member of the interim board of the National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure. Kay is also managing director of KAM Ltd, which offers a range of support services in the sport and leisure industry working in volunteer/workforce development and facility development.



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