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Growth in the sector will aid economic recovery

It is crucial that we keep promoting the sector and be seen as a priority sector


Having a skilled workforce will be increasingly important for the UK

Skills 'key to economic recovery'

Report calls for sustained investment in training

By Tom Walker

Investment in skills within the leisure industry is crucial if the sector is to emerge from the recession as fit for purpose, according to a report commis- sioned by the government. The results of the first

National Strategic Skills Audit, released by the UK Com- mission for Employment and Skills, warns that if the economic recovery is to continue it is important that future skills development needs are correctly identified and prioritised.

If investment is not achieved,

the UK economy runs the risk of increased skills shortages and under-employment. The report reveals that the

UK's growth in highly skilled jobs is already one of the lowest in the 30 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Also identified in the report

is the number of people reported as 'not fully proficient' at their jobs. The figure has increased by 400,000 in the past five years – from 1.3m in 2005 to 1.7m in 2009.

TAG initiative reaches landmark

A group of young unem- ployed people have com- pleted their Level 2 fitness qualification through the Transforming a Generation (TAG) charity. The most recent patch of

graduates means that TAG has reached the milestone of having 100 young people on its programme. Supported by a number of operators – in- cluding LA Fitness, Fitness First, Greenwich Leisure and

© Cybertrek 2010

DC Leisure – TAG aims to create more than 1,000 new jobs across the country by the end of this year. TAG aims to help young

people to break what it calls the "lack-of-experience-so- can't-get-a-job-so-can't-get- experience" cycle by offering the chance to obtain a Level 2 Health and Fitness Instructor qualification, as well as receiving a four- month paid work placement.

he first national strategic skills audit, commissioned by the government, was released in March

and focused on economic recovery and growth only being fully realised if there is continued investment in skills – something I have been talking about for a while now. The headline message seemed to be that investment in the right skills is key to economic recovery. Since the recession began in 2008,

employment in key occupations within sport and fitness has grown despite the economic slowdown. In fact, significantly, our sector has continued to see consumer spending in physical activity and health hold firm, which I would attribute to a greater public acceptance of the importance of health and well-being. Therefore, it is more imperative than ever to ensure that the professionals offering such services are fully competent and qualified. Specifically, since the recession began, there has been a major

STEPHEN STUDD is chief executive of SkillsActive

increase in sport coaches, instructors and officials working in the sector. In fact, there has been a 41.1 per cent increase – that’s 21,000 new jobs; more than any other occupation. This isn’t a great surprise for me as we have always been a sector that has made an impact – this report gives that recognition. The growth just doesn’t start and stop with sport coaches, instructors and officials – through the DWP Future Jobs Fund initiative, we have created a further 2,500 jobs at a community level working with key employers including TAG, Street Games, the Amateur Swimming Association, and the DKH Legacy Trust. This initiative is being delivered through our National Skills Academy, and I am delighted by our successful bid in phase two of the initiative, which will create a further 2,500 jobs. There are challenging times ahead; public sector cuts will

affect the sector. Funding is being focused on new industries such as low carbon economy and digital Britain. Therefore it is crucial that we keep promoting the sector; to be seen as a priority sector and not get squeezed out. That said we are working closely with sector employers on a number of initiatives, including 5,000 new apprentice places for this year, distributing £1.9m of funding that was brokered for wage subsidy for 1,400 apprentices through the Apprenticeship Expansion Programme. So the message is clear: we are a growth sector. Active Leisure,

Learning and Well-being is at the heart of society – education, economy, health and community – and it will not fulfil its potential in aiding economic recovery and improving the quality of life in the UK if its skills needs are not addressed.

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