Professional standards and the new sector career map – lighting up your future

Striving to success in sport

A time of change in the sport and physical activity sector

It’s been 4 years of rapid change in the world of sport and physical activity, as we look to further grow as a recognised and respected profession across leisure management, sport management, health and fitness and other sector industries.

The sector can be rightly proud of the progress we have made, by working together, to set strong foundations for providing great careers and opportunities for our workforce. After all, these are the people who help organisations deliver great sport and physical activity opportunities to the British public.

The following piece explores how the power of partnership working has bought the CIMSPA Professional Standards Framework from ambition to reality and how this framework is now perfectly positioned to be leveraged into sector-wide positive change. We will be exploring this area more at the forthcoming CIMSPA and Quest NBS Conference and explaining how the CIMSPA “shield of quality” will benefit employers.

The importance of developing professional standards framework

Since 2015, and the creation of the sector’s first professional development board (which built on the earlier work of the SPELG* group) our sector standards project has always been employer-led. The professional standards we have delivered are consistently aligned to the needs of employers for well-skilled, customer-positive team members.

With Sport England support, CIMSPA has researched the entire sector, analysing hundreds of “job titles” and distilling these down into a core set of definable “occupations”. Each occupation, for example “coach”, is the basis for each professional standard, with additional specialist standards covering where a person works e.g. in a school, and with what populations e.g. children.

Collectively, the sector has shown a huge commitment – with employers, education providers and awarding organisations all working effectively to make this a reality.

The sector’s Professional Standards Framework is now up and running – from personal trainer, through health navigator to general manager – across twenty-plus core standards and many specialisms.

These standards have now been applied to many sector-wide CPD and qualification products, and have already been built into all of our endorsed degree programmes. As students complete standards-based qualifications, employers will see this quality move into their workforce.

This is a milestone position for CIMSPA and the sport and physical activity sector – we have delivered the ask employers made of their chartered institute. These professional standards can be used to “move the needle” on what really matters – delivering great careers for our people, driving workforce performance and building resilient and effective operators that encourage healthy physical activity habits.

The next goal for CIMSPA and the sector is to inject a standards-based ethos into the DNA of every employer in our sector – encouraging them to use the high quality education products that have been created to enhance their people development.

What impact has our professional standards had on the sector?

As our professional standards library draws close to completion, what’s been great to see is the innovative ways that the resource is being used by the sector. We always knew that standards would be used to create straightforward qualifications and CPD and this is becoming the norm. But what we didn’t anticipate was how quickly the sector would identify other uses for this library. For example, employers are now using professional standards within appraisal processes.

If a team member has the ambition to become a manager, we have seen employers take the CIMSPA Aspiring Manager Professional Standard and use it to map out a personal development plan. By basing this plan on professional standards, this ensures the CPD and learning identified for the individual is exactly what employers are looking for.

Other employers have told us how useful the standards have been in the recruitment phase – ensuring role adverts and person specifications align with the employer-agreed minimum deployment standards for that job.

What is next for our sector, its professionals and its practitioners?

As the sector’s chartered professional body, CIMSPA’s key focus now is to keep the momentum of positive change going. Hundreds of employer and education partners have asked us to “set a bar of quality” across our sector, and that’s what we’ve done.

So, our agreements with employer partners are now aligned with a commitment that they only invest in training providers and products recognised by CIMSPA – to help build a self-sustaining marketplace of high quality people development where the best training providers can flourish.

Our sector is now fully committed to the professional standards system. To reinforce this, CIMSPA will be stepping up how we encourage training providers to transition their products into the new world – removing previous endorsement programmes to give the sector clarity.

CIMSPA are proud of the investment made by funders, stakeholders and employers in making the sector’s ambitions a reality around professional standards. Our collective standards creation, endorsement, assessment and mapping system has been built “for the good of all” – we’ve kept costs to the system as low as possible and underwritten the whole structure.

We are already reviewing our governance to make sure our structures meet employer needs. From 2020 the sector’s professional development board is evolving and we will establish 5 permanent professional development committees to capture and retain a consistent approach to extending our standards framework.

This summarises where we are now on how professional standards can help build a recognised and respected profession for our workforce. Look out for ways that YOU can get involved in this – perhaps through our professional development committees or our frequent consultations on draft standards. Make sure you follow our social channels to keep updated.

Together with my colleague Natasha Eason, our presentation at the CIMSPA & Quest NBS Conference 2020 will provide a full picture as to how sport and physical activity employers can best understand and deploy the sector’s professional standards in their businesses to both help their service effectiveness and recruit, retain and reward the best people. Come and join us!


CIMSPA and Quest NBS conference 2020

CIMSPA and Quest NBS will be delivering our most comprehensive and impressive conference to date. With a total of eight themes and a programme packed full of high profile and inspiring speakers, including Tim Hollingsworth, CEO of Sport England, Tara Dillon, CEO of CIMSPA, Caroline Constantine, Company Director of Right Directions (NBS and Quest) and behaviour change expert David Thomson – this is not one to miss. The agenda promises to educate, discuss and debate the best practice and the latest work within the sector.

The 'education' content stream:

Professional standards and the new sector career map – lighting up your future Colin Huffen, Head of Regulation and Standards, CIMSPA Natasha Eason, Education and Apprenticeships Officer, CIMSPA

Your team’s “next generation of success” delivered by our HE partners Steve Osborne, Principal Lecturer, Cardiff Metropolitan University Lisa Binney, Senior Lecturer in Sport Development, Policy and Physical Education, School of Sport, Health and Social Sciences, Solent University

Additional content streams:

CIMSPA will also host other sessions exploring the following content streams: Education, Leadership and Management.

Quest NBS will host sessions exploring the content streams of: Engagement, Operations, Customer Services and Partnerships.

When and where?

All of this will be taking place at Pride Park Stadium, Derby on 27 February 2020


Colin Huffen
A blog post by Colin Huffen,
Head of Regulation and Standards at CIMSPA

Incorporated by Royal Charter Charity registration number 1144545

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