New research shows that the significance of sport to the Essex economy is comparable with other industries including burdening creative industries in driving employment growth. Over 11,000 new jobs in sports and leisure could be created, to add to the 21,400 already employed in the sector.
Active Essex, the county sports partnership for Greater Essex, and Creative Sport & Leisure Ltd, specialists in apprenticeships and work-based learning, have unveiled a new Sport Skills Strategy and Action Plan based on new research that identifies the need to develop a highly skilled, dynamic and diverse workforce in the sport and leisure sector.
Giving professional development opportunities to existing coaches, instructors and volunteers, as well as reforming qualifications and training frameworks to attract and develop young people into the industry, are amongst the key recommendations from the report.
Currently, the leisure sector employs almost 22,000 people in Essex accounting for around 2.5% of all jobs in the county. There are also around 3,000 self-employed people in related sports roles.
The research has informed an evidence-based Sports Skills Action Plan that will be driven by Active Essex and Creative Sport & Leisure, to increase skills and employment in the county. It will also support the delivery of the Creative Sport & Leisure ‘Creating Sector Leaders’ plan and Active Essex’s four-year strategy to change 1 million lives by getting people in Essex active.
The employment opportunities in the sport and leisure sector are not limited to delivering sport and physical activity, but includes the operation of sports facilities and clubs, sport event management, administration, as well as manufacturing and sale of sporting goods.
In addition to improving general knowledge of sports development and achieving coaching qualifications, young people involved in the sector develop a range of important, transferable skills including customer orientated skills, commercial awareness, team-work and organisational skills.
The Active Essex and Creative Sport & Leisure Sport Skills Action Plan will achieve its ambition and fill the existing skills gap by:
increasing awareness of training, jobs and skills across the sector;
developing strong partnerships across the county between the sport and leisure sector, councils and businesses;
signposting funding and finance schemes for both young people and employers; and
raising awareness of the scope of employment and career opportunities in the sector including apprenticeships, coaching and volunteering.
Cllr Ray Gooding, Cabinet member for Education and Skills, said: “I welcome the findings from this new report which highlights the challenges and opportunities around developing the next generation in this expanding sector. I look forward to working closely with organisations across the sports and leisure industry and helping Essex to become a leader in identifying new career opportunities for young people.”
To successfully deliver the plan, the importance of the sport and leisure industry to the Essex economy must remain on the agenda on the Essex Skills Board. To ensure this happens, Active Essex and Creative Sport & Leisure are calling out for relevant businesses and organisations to come together to form a working sub-group to support this ideal and help ensure the Sports Skill sector is recognised.
By creating a strong workforce in the sport and leisure industry, communities across the county will have a greater opportunity to access the very best physical activity and sport provision. This increased participation will subsequently have a huge impact on the wider health landscape including decreasing NHS spending associated with physical inactivity, improving mental health wellbeing and impacting broader issues such as social isolation. Twenty years ago the nation’s health challenge was to become smoke free; today it’s inactivity which is causing increased health risk and costing the NHS in Essex alone £58 million each year.
Commenting on the Sport Skills Action Plan, Azeem Akhtar, Chair, Active Essex said: “This report provides the evidence that the sport and leisure industry not only has a positive impact on the local economy in terms of employment and job creation but also provides a range of skills to equip young people for future employment. By creating a strong, skilled workforce we can deliver our strategy of changing 1 million lives by getting Essex active.”
Dave Kreyling, Chief Executive, Creative Sport & Leisure added: “We have already identified the need for creating future leaders in sport and leisure and by working with a range of partners we have the opportunity to develop a highly skilled and dynamic workforce.”
Ultimately, by developing the right skills for the sector, it is hoped the Sports Skills Strategy and Action Plan will have a wider impact which will not only grow the business base to create employment and self-employment but also develop the right workforce to improve participation in sport and physical activity and improve health and wellbeing in Greater Essex.