Shaping the future of workforce development - conference report

On Wednesday 8 July, over 70 invited representatives from major employers, training providers, awarding organisations and government agencies joined CIMSPA and ukactive in Reading for the next phase of their workforce development project.

With so many committed organisations in the room, it turned out to be a seminal day in the chartered institute’s history – moving beyond analysis and debate into concrete actions. The message from the day was clear – the era of a top-down, “ivory tower” approach to standards and qualifications development is over, in favour of an employer-led approach closely aligned with the government’s employability, skills and productivity ambitions.

The event, which was the final of three conferences since November 2014, provided a forum for those present to directly influence and improve standards in sport and physical activity career development, and to ensure that the CIMSPA and ukactive plan parallels with sector and employer needs.

Tara Dillon, CIMSPA CEO, and Steve Ward, ukactive’s executive director, framed the day’s work with a “big picture” explanation of how career pathways in the sector would look, as well as an introduction to the new sector skills framework.

Then, “inclusion” was a key theme of the morning, with delegates working to ensure that that ALL job families/roles are included in this process – from the core of leisure, fitness and sports development, through to health and wellbeing, play and NGBs.

After a networking lunch, group breakout sessions examined four subjects:

  • Communications: Transmitting the message that this project has 100% buy-in from the sector; ensuring that "clarity of benefit" to both individual and employer is always present in messaging; and, being aware that delivering milestones in the project will generate goodwill and secure faith in the overall goal.
  • Building for the future: Breakout attendees examined and critiqued a draft “governance mission” document which covered how employers, training providers, FE colleges (via AoC Sport), HE institutions and awarding organisations will work with CIMSPA. It also sketched out the model for how CIMSPA leadership of the sector, in partnership with the ukactive member council, and through a number of committees, will deliver an employer-led skills strategy.
  • Quality is everything: This breakout session examined qualification standards. Its conclusions stressed the need for robust minimum standards, delivery monitoring and a clear code of practice for awarding organisations and training providers “inside” the system. On CPD, the group was keen to learn from the best practices of other professional bodies. Finally, when the new model is active, the breakout agreed the need for a true and accurate “common marketing language” to avoid customers and learners being misled.
  • The way forward: The group made a clear agreement in favour of an employer-led single common framework for each qualification, before moving on to an examination of the highest priority job families and roles to deliver for the sector; and the breakout concluded with a clear direction regarding how we reach these goals.


CIMSPA and ukactive are now considering the work of those present on the day, and shaping this into action plans which will underpin the substantive work to come.

First to emerge will be:

  • Sector skills matrix
  • What qualifications at what levels are needed, across multiple job families and job roles?
  • This matrix will allow employers and the sector to identify/improve new and existing roles to meet the changing challenges facing the sector in the new public health landscape.
  • Governance blueprint – an employer-led framework for the initiation, development and review of qualifications development.
  • Communications plan (already drafted and being finalised) – explaining how we’ll keep messaging relevant, positive and timely to build trust in the process.

All of the above will drive and determine the development of CIMSPA’s membership, partnership, CPD and ongoing personal development products and services.

Also coming soon will be a set of “frequently asked questions” to help inform those working in the sector of how they can be a part of this work, and how it will affect their training, personal career development and employability.

We’ll obviously make members aware as soon as all of these documents become available.

CIMSPA and ukactive would like to thank all those organisations who took part on the day and for their contribution to realising the sector’s workforce development ambitions.

Incorporated by Royal Charter Charity registration number 1144545

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