This gives us some confidence in the effectiveness of the government’s retention schemes through the pandemic and the impact of the re-training and deployment efforts that were so central to supporting the workforce in being able to deliver again.
Key to all of this was our investment; Retrain to Retain, which we used to support CIMSPA, EMD UK and UK Coaching to minimise the loss of the skills and experience needed as we moved people from lockdown to recovery and movement.
It is encouraging to see that increased emphasis on skill development. But whilst there are common skill sets, we need to increase our understanding and support of the different abilities and talents required for different roles, and how these manifests themselves within a place.
This very much aligns with taking a place-based and community-led approach to enabling sport and physical activity to happen, as they ensure the workforce has the right skills and opportunities to answer its local needs.
This is something that is at the very core of our commitment within our long-term strategy, Uniting the Movement, but it’s also critical in our recent investment into CIMSPA with the establishment of the Local Skills Hubs, driven by local organisations and the workforce.
The challenges ahead
We are still seeing a real lack of diversity within the workforce, showing that we still have some way to go in our ambition to be truly reflective of society and the places in which we live and work.
Commitment to change means taking action and recruiting more people from diverse and under-represented backgrounds into senior and management roles, as this will contribute towards our mission to encourage more of the population to move more.
The lack of diversity across age, gender, disability and ethnicity is also more acute among occupations in our sector than those across the wider UK economy.
For example, 13% of the sport and physical activity workforce report having a disability, compared with a national average of 16% across all occupations, and 87% are white British compared to 77% of all occupations.
While the report recommends building better talent-retention strategies and clearer career pathways, these efforts need to be looked at through the lens of the lived experiences of people under-represented in our workforce so we can understand and respond to the specific challenges they face.
We must also guard against complacency when it comes to the millions of sports coaches who provide activity sessions for others.
Our own consultation with coaches and instructors across the sector showed worrying signs of a workforce that is feeling undervalued, overwhelmed, demotivated and unsupported by the increased demands of their role.
We need to provide better support while, at the same time, ensuring every coach can be properly identified as being ‘safe to practice’.
Put simply, we must collectively make a stronger effort to engage, involve and empower more people, from more places, to be part of the workforce and make the space much more open and accessible to all.
From all of this, I have hope that we are moving in the right direction and that shoots we see now can soon blossom.
But we cannot take the sport and physical activity workforce for granted and we must ensure we give great experiences, support, opportunities and recognition to all of those that enable others to be active.