Transitioning to health

Transitioning to health

Tara Dillon, CIMSPA interim COO

Presentation given to ukactive National Summit, November 2014


Transitioning to health from Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity


Tara Dillon, CIMSPA Interim COO

Transitioning to Health Speech

  • I have attended this event for the last two years and so have seen our sector rebrand itself to “active” and then last year we for the first time recognised “inactivity” as a stand-alone public health issue
  • I would argue that the societal importance that we attach to our sector has increased immeasurably we are now part of the solution to what others regularly refer to as top tier public health issue
  • As many of you know I have only been in post at CIMSPA under an interim basis since February of this year – however one thing has been clear the entire time – if we are going to tackle this key issue we must professionalise our sector.
  • Today we are due to discuss professionalization within the context of our nation’s health – however the need for professionalization could apply to our financial growth, the need to address declining levels of sporting participation across the UK
  • Bottom line is our workforce development strategy needs to match the ambition of our sector

A sector on the rise

  • Deloitte have outlined the projected growth of various sectors as an aggregate score of their recruitment and financial growth
  • Sport and Activity are embedded within some of the fastest growing sectors in the country:

    • Preventative Health
    • Digital Delivery of Health
    • Retirement Age and Leisure
  • We are subject to the growth patterns of large sectors, and I believe we are part the growth that the wellness is forecasted to achieve by becoming the first trillion dollar industry by 2017.
  • I realise that some of these sentiments may seem a world away from day to day operations however these are the headlines for our sector that resonate with young people seeking to start their career

A sector in demand

  • As we have heard today and numerous times this year we are also a sector with a key role to play in the health of the nation.
  • Two Chief Medical Officers ago we heard Sir Liam Donaldson state that “Activity is a miracle cure” however since then we have further learnt that:

    • Being inactive shortens a lifespan by 3-5 years
    • By 2020 the average person will be so sedentary they will use only 25% more energy than if they spent the whole day sleeping
    • Between 1961 and 2005 (only one generation) activity declined by 20% however this is set to continue with a further 15% decline by 2030
  • In short, we need an active nation more than ever before.
  • Over the last month I am sure many of you heard reports from the NHS Conference where the NHS CEO, Simon Stephens, clearly stated that a preventative approach to our Nations Health is the only thing that can save our NHS.
  • These are landmark statements that demonstrate that our sector is of critical importance to the national priorities. If we organise our efforts and learn the lessons from the sessions today then we have the opportunity to fundamentally re-position our sector and therefore our workforce.

A diversifying sector

  • Having worked in the sector my entire career I can also attest to the fact that we are diversifying
  • Due to my role with CIMSPA I routinely meet with numerous aspects of the sector and every day I am seeing examples of diversification.
  • Some of this is born out of necessity, for instance in the face of cuts local authorities have expanded into new areas such as theatres, libraries, culture, and public health services.
  • However we are also seeing previously traditional leisure and activity providers stepping out of their comfort zone and delivering:

    • Wellbeing solutions for customers not restricted by membership, for instance Life Leisure in Stockport deliver activities to the widest definition of the population through their Acti-life programme
    • True partnerships with General Practice Surgeries such as Let’s Get Moving where exercise professionals are actually placed in General Practice Surgeries delivering activity counselling programmes all funded through our new public health system
    • Curriculum and Non-Curriculum school sport and PE – another session today is outlining how leisure providers can expand to deliver new services within schools, however numerous providers are already delivering such services within schools everyday
    • Technology solutions – there has been a 60% growth in the usage of activity and fitness applications, and we are seeing sector stalwarts such as Nuffield and others innovate in this area
    • Mass participations events which were previously “one-offs” are now established businesses

Our career ladder needs repair

  • In previous years the sector’s career pathway was a simple journey from technical roles such as lifeguard or PT to an aquatics manager or fitness manager – however there is now a clear argument for new roles and career pathways.
  • We have outgrown our career pathways!
  • So in summary we are a growing sector that forms part of the solution for key issues facing this government
  • However, we all know anecdotally that our career pathway is in need of repair and we have key skills gaps within our workforce.
  • These challenges are precluding our efforts to attract and retain talent
  • These are not insurmountable and we can continue to operate as we are however they will preclude ultimate success

Addressing key skills gaps

  • In addition, we have key skills gaps within our workforce which are halting our success & growth
  • Given the scale of our workforce development challenges I could have listed any number of statistics and pieces of insight, however here are a few:

    • 25,000 managers (a third of the management workforce) do not hold their minimum level of qualification for their role
    • 31% of exercise professionals state they are not prepared to work with children, despite this being a clear opportunity for our sector to diversify
    • 25% of managers feel that qualifications should have a greater emphasis on behavioural change
    • 13% of managers state that education has become to quick
    • Above all else a third of employers believe that exercise professionals lack the basis skills to work with inactive people

Now is the time to change

  • Fortunately, we now have perfect opportunity to alter our career pathways, tackle our skills gaps
  • For several years the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (DBIS) and the Skills Funding Agency have clearly stated that employers must be at the heart of the skills system integrated fully into the design of standards, qualifications and the drawing down of funding.
  • We are also starting to see employers developing their own education and training, for instance Fitness First announced the development of bespoke physical activity counselling training all exercise staff in partnership with Prof. Stuart Biddle.
  • New business models and wider landscape changes are also prompting innovation in education and training. In another session at today’s Summit the ukactive Research Institute, led by Prof Gregg Whyte, and Public Health England are outlining the steps to develop scale-able public health interventions and you can be certain that most involve the application of a fitness or activity professional in a new environment of method. In effect, we are responding to the changes by utilising activity professionals through different means such as physical activity counselling.
  • The Ofqal proposed removal of the QCF could promote a system without benchmarks with huge variances in basic quality across qualifications all applied to the same job role
  • However, through the Chartered Institute I am proud that we have a system of working with Awarding Organisations and employers to agree minimum standards of education for job roles in the sector
  • This has manifested itself in securing a Trailblazer programme for the sector which enables employers to draft their standards for key apprenticeships such as Personal Training


  • So in summary we have the opportunity to fundamentally alter the knowledge, skills and competencies of key professionals in the sector
  • We no longer have to rely on at times complex systems rather solely on employers
  • However, I must caution that by merely focus one job role or another we will only scratch the surface we must take an all encompassing approach to professionalising our sector, including:

    • Assessment methods of exercise professionals?
    • Competencies within our flagship exercise roles?
    • Apprenticeship funding and future mandatory cash contributions?
    • Employer design of qualifications?
    • Partnerships with fellow professions?
  • Today is the first step in doing so, however is crucial area and one that we will again discuss at the Active Training Awards in several weeks time and in a years time will deserve the same attention as those being discussed on the headline stage
  • If anything I have said today resonates with your view of the sector then please ensure that you do not make today the “peak” of your engagement with the Chartered Institute.