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Sport and Active Leisure

The Job Market

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  • There are opportunities with local authorities, private leisure centres and health and fitness clubs - most are based in towns and cities, or on the outskirts of towns and cities

  • Employers are usually small - sport, for instance, employs 371,800 people in around 176,000 businesses/organisations, according to SkillsActive,

  • Hours can be long and shift work is common but, overall, around half the employees in sport and leisure work part time

  • The sector has a large number of volunteers working mainly as coaches, instructors and activity leaders - however, more are needed. For some jobs, such as professional coaches, experience of volunteering is essential. Volunteering is helpful for making contacts, and many coaches find paid work through word of mouth.

  • One area where volunteers are the norm is in 'outdoor activities' - around 75% of more than 30,000 instructors and trainers are volunteers. Paid work is very competitive. Most instructors are freelance and work for centres on a short contract, or directly with clients such as youth groups and companies who want to train their staff.

  • Playing sport is another area where most people are volunteers (amateurs). There are only around 50,000 professional sportspeople in the UK and many are spotted at an early age by coaches, scouts or teachers. Most established sports have a national governing or representative body that can provide information on local clubs and the best way to progress in the sport.

  • With the exception of sports and PE teachers, sports physiotherapists, sports psychologists and a few other work areas, graduate entry positions are unusual in sport and active leisure

  • In addition, for many roles, academic qualifications are not essential. Some employers will consider vocationally-related qualifications, plus experience, to be more useful.

  • Work-related qualifications are often needed by gyms and health clubs. There are estimated to be around 6000 in the UK, as well as at least 10 major chains including Fitness First - the largest - and Virgin Active, which has recently taken over the Esporta chain of health clubs