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Physical activity leaders to drive apprenticeship reforms

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A coalition of leading leisure employers and industry organisations have today (23 October) launched a government-backed programme to revolutionise apprenticeships for the physical activity sector.

Led by Places for People Leisure – in conjunction with CIMSPA and ukactive – the Activity Trailblazer places responsibility for defining apprenticeship standards for PTs and leisure managers in the hands of employers, enabling the industry to streamline training pathways and proactively address skills shortages.

The move follows the government’s October 2013 announcement of plans to shake up apprenticeships under the Trailblazers programme, aiming to make them more rigorous and responsive to the needs of employers. Nationally, apprenticeships schemes support over 500,000 learners and attract in excess of £750m per year in funding. As well as the benefits for employers, sector apprentices will be in line for a more focused programme, with less duplication across units.

The coalition of employers behind the Activity Trailblazer – to be chaired by Places for People Leisure’s Richard Millard – includes DLL, Everyone Active, GLL, Carlisle Leisure, Parkwood Leisure, Hilton, 1Life, 1610, Jubilee Hall Trust, ESPH, Fitness Express, Virgin Active, LA fitness and Nuffield Health.

“Apprenticeships are at the heart of so many of our businesses within the sector, so it is crucial that employers have the ability to review, revise and develop new standards that will sit behind our apprenticeships,” said Millard.

The announcement has drawn praise from a number of corners, with skills minister Nick Boles noting the physical activity sector is playing a ‘key role’ in reforming apprenticeships, while other industry leaders were quick to welcome the initiative.

“The education and training system has changed significantly over the last several years, it is now entirely employer led and so we must organise our sector in response to this challenge,” said CIMSPA interim COO Tara Dillon, whose organisation will manage and provide the secretariat for the Activity Trailblazer.

“The Trailblazer is the first example of the sector and employers working in such a structure and we couldn’t be happier to support it.”

Between October and February, a consultation on the draft standards will be conducted with training providers, awarding organisations and employers. The defined standards for leisure manager and PT apprenticeships will be submitted to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS). Once the Activity Trailblazer has designed these initial standards, it will proceed to develop the expectations for additional areas within sport and activity.

“Apprenticeships are the lifeblood of our sector, but they have to be managed carefully to deliver optimal results and keep up with labour market demand,” said ukactive CEO David Stalker.

“Putting employers in the driving seat strategically, but also offering them purchasing power is a step-change that will result in a more effective function at the heart of our growing sector.”

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A coalition of leading leisure employers and industry organisations have today (23 October) launched a government-backed programme to revolutionise apprenticeships for the physical activity sector.
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