Shaping the future of the sector’s workforce


Elaine Briggs, Head of Education and Innovation, Future Fit Training


The session began with Elaine introducing herself as Head of Education and Innovation at Future Fit Training. Elaine started off setting the scene by explaining what the Raising the Bar report actually was.

She stated that over the last four years, Future Fit Training, with the support from CIMSPA and ukactive, have published findings in regards to the state of the sector’s workforce. Elaine then explained that the session would explore the wider issues facing the sector in terms of workforce skills and will provide the group with an opportunity to help shape the future of our sector.

“The importance of having the right person in the right job should not be underestimated” said Briggs.

Raising the Bar

Back in 2014, Future Fit were becoming increasingly aware of frustrations being voiced by operators and the sector at large, with regards to the work-readiness of newly qualified fitness professionals. This first report gauged employer opinions on the following four topics:

  1. Methods of training

  2. Assessment standards

  3. Skills requirements

  4. Employment pathways

Initial dissatisfaction

The 2014 report highlighted dissatisfaction among employers. Not one respondent was satisfied with the current Level 3 Personal Training qualification. Not one respondent believed current assessment methods are robust enough or included sufficient practical assessment. 100% of respondents answered either ‘yes’ or ‘sometimes’ whether they have to provide additional training to fitness staff. All respondents said personal trainers should undertake their assessment on a real life candidate.

Elaine then highlighted the work that CIMSPA has done to create the new professional standards alongside employers, training providers and awarding organisations. Elaine stressed the importance of all training providers getting on board to make sure they are delivering the correct knowledge, skills and behaviours as part of their qualifications.

Tara Dillon also contributed and told the group how the professional standards have been created and how important it was for employers to pick the right training for their staff.

“There are still rogue training providers out there offering a poor standard of delivery and we need to work together to make sure that instructors pick the kitemark of training. The power is with the employers, they have a duty to make sure that their own staff are trained to the highest possible standard.”

REPs was discussed and several employers in the room expressed their concern that the sector cannot have two registers as this is causing great confusion amongst individuals, training providers, awarding organisations and most importantly, employers.

“If you want one register, then have one. The power sits with you - the employer” said Dillon.

Tara also touched on the fact that employers should only pick quality assured training.

“Pick the register that gives you that assurance – CIMSPA.”

Fast Forward to the 2018 report

Elaine firstly gave some general feedback about what employers and operators said in the 2018 report. Employers and operators said that they genuinely believed that the introduction of the new professional standards would have a hugely positive impact on the standard of delivery.


  • 73% believed that personal training qualifications should take at least six months to complete.

  • 92% provide additional training to ensure that fitness staff are work ready.

  • 87% said that candidates are entering the industry with unrealistic expectations.

A major skills gap was also highlighted as the biggest challenge:

  1. Commercial acumen

  2. Social skills

  3. Behaviour change skills

2019 – Moving forward and raising the bar further

Elaine highlighted the need to exceed expectations to push through the professional standards. Future Fit, in collaboration with Sport England are being tasked with building a stakeholder group. A group of organisations coming together to improve the quality of training and education across the sector. It is designed to establish principles, aspirations, and goals, but more importantly to share best practice.  

In preparation for the first stakeholder group meeting, Elaine asked the group to break-out in to three groups to explore the following issues/questions:

  1. What do you feel are currently the main barriers to our sector when considering how we can improve quality of training and education?        

  2. How can we share best practice across the sector and continue to raise the bar and support the professionalisation of the sector?

  3. What would you like to see on the agenda for the first meeting of this new forum?

Tara Dillon, Rob Johnson (MD Future Fit Training) and Stuart Armstrong (Sport England) facilitated the group discussions.

Key areas of discussion from group break outs:

  • Rogue training providers offering cheap and cheerful qualifications.

  • Funding – employers struggling to fund courses for employees.

  • REPs vs CIMSPA issue – the confusion of having two registers in the sector. We need one accreditation scheme, one voice in the sector. Employers need to be putting CIMSPA membership on job adverts as compulsory.

  • The HE skills gap – university courses not including work experience for students.

  • Backing from Sport England – will they back CIMSPA for the foreseeable?

  • Understanding exactly what employers are looking for in an instructor – the soft skills are what really retains a customer. The ability to relate to a customer is really important when you are trying to engage them.

  • Employers have buried their heads in the sand regarding the qualifications that their own staff have. Now is the time to completely quality assure what is going on and alleviate this problem of staff not having the correct qualifications.

Stuart Armstrong from Sport England ended the session by highlighting the importance of employers actually valuing the need for professional development. He also touched on some of the challenges that lie ahead for training providers with it being a competitive market.

“We need a ‘Diamond Alliance’ of training providers to come together and collaborate to face the challenges that the sector faces moving forward and effectively raise the bar even further.”

Stuart and Rob Johnson then asked the group to express their interest in forming the stakeholder group and commit to the ‘movement’ in training, learning and development. The aim will be to come together on a regular basis to tackle the issues that have been discussed.