Based on this new sectoral definition, EuropeActive has launched the ‘Sector Skills Alliance (SSA) for Fitness and Physical Activity’, which broadens the scope of, and thus replaces, the previous SSA for Active Leisure (2016-2021). This new advisory body encompasses a broader range of stakeholders, organisations, and strategic partners from across the fitness and physical activity sector to cooperate in the promotion of healthy and active lifestyles. 
 
The purpose of a SSA is to identify sector-specific labour market needs, demand for new occupational profiles, and the skills needed to perform in one or more professional sectors using scientific evidence. The Alliance acts as a forum with representatives from workforce practitioners and employer organisations, members of education and training systems including from VET and higher education, as well as public authorities and other relevant governmental and institutional agencies, with the aim to improve cooperation and coordination at European and national level for the benefit of the sector.
 
The first meeting of the SSA underlined its role as a ‘think tank’ focussed on skills development and acknowledged that there has never been a more relevant time for this group. The current state of the industry and the impact of Covid-19 was seen as a moment to hit the reset button, to re-think, reshare and contribute to the future of the sector. With these intentions in mind, the 18 sector representatives discussed a number of key questions including:
 
  • The main trends in terms of skills needs of the fitness and physical activity workforce
  • The main Sectoral occupational roles e.g. Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer and whether they are still fit for purpose
  • How our sector can best collaborate with health professionals
  • The main workforce issues facing our sector e.g. the ability to fill vacancies, employment conditions, remuneration and employee support
  • How we can improve the quality of workers in the sector
 
A number of key issues arose from these discussions including the need to:
 
  • continue to reach out to the huge number of people not engaging with the fitness sector
  • increase the credibility of the sector with health professionals and to help them better understand the occupational roles within it through clear pathways of career progression
  • empower fitness and physical activity professionals, through appropriate training, to work with those with existing health conditions and, to identify any skills shortages or gaps in this respect
  • continue to establish robust quality assurance processes for training providers delivering courses within the sector
  • identify ‘bright spots’ around Europe of fitness professionals already working well with health professionals to provide services for segments of the market not currently addressed 
  • identify worker remuneration levels, working conditions, training support and turnover in order to assist employers in creating systems for their employees
  • support independent PTs as well as those employed or self-employed within clubs
 
The first in-person meeting of the SSA is planned to take place during the FIBO week in early April. The SSA Secretariat is now working to implement research to inform the above needs and towards the development of a comprehensive skills strategy for the sector. 
 
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Jan 18, 2022 By Pauline Joskin