From education to employment

A leisurely outlook for training and employment

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Following the outcomes of the Wolf Report and the stated priorities of the coalition government, we need to focus more than ever on the relevance of vocational qualifications and the employability of the students who successfully complete them.

While we might disagree upon the extent to which this was true in the past, there is no doubt that the government, awarding organisations and training providers are all singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to the challenge of growing youth employment. In simple terms, we need to ensure that our young people are equipped with relevant skills and knowledge to help them succeed in these trying economic times.

Watching the recent royal wedding, it occurred to me that one area where we will probably see growth in employment demand over the next couple of years is in the leisure industry. With a number of big events planned, including the London Olympics, and the increasing popularity of ‘staycation’ holidays, young people and employers will be on the lookout for suitable training opportunities in leisure, travel and tourism.

From tour guide to security officer, there are relevant qualifications already in place that will help to meet the demand of this expanding sector. For employers, many leisure sector NCFE qualifications can also be offered within an apprenticeship framework, offering the perfect opportunity to capitalise on the economic recovery.

You only have to look at the royal wedding to comprehend the vast array of expertise that is required to organise any event, from the event organiser to the florist, the cake maker and the chauffeur, everyone has individual skills which need to be learned.

One thing that is common to many careers in leisure, travel and tourism is that they grow from a personal passion or ambition of the individuals involved. This may be a sporting talent or a passion for travel and, while it does mean that the student is likely to be highly committed to their chosen career path, it does not mean that the process of learning and acquiring the necessary experience will be one long holiday. What it does do is provide the trainer and the employer with something to nurture.

Working in close consultation with the training providers, students and employers, we have recently launched a range of qualifications intended to give learners, particularly young people, a grounding in the core skills needed to work in the leisure industry, allowing them to acquire a basic knowledge before deciding on a specific job role or career. One such qualification is the Level 2 Certificate in Preparation for Working in Sport and Leisure. This offers basic customer service knowledge, people skills and a grounding clerical matters and service delivery, as well as first aid training.

Security is another area where demand is growing, with upwards of 10,000 personnel expected to be needed for the Olympics alone. Whereas it was once thought that CCTV would effectively replace humans in meeting most security requirements, the experience of recent years has shown that well-trained personnel are more important than ever. From CCTV operator to door supervisor and manned guarding, there are training courses already available to fulfil the needs of this expanding sector.

The final growth sector linked to big events like the royal wedding and the Olympics, and one that is often overlooked by training providers and learners, is volunteering. In the age of the Big Society, with government support at a premium, volunteering is becoming a growth industry. We should not forget that, like all kinds of workers and employees, volunteers need to be organised and administered.

Our Level 2 Certificate in Volunteering teaches the basics of volunteering for both prospective volunteers and those who wish to support them. With thousands of new volunteers needed by charities and organisations right across the UK, as well as for major events like the Olympics, this course will provide an invaluable insight.

So we have identified that the leisure sector has excellent prospects for growth and we have shown that suitable training opportunities are available to anyone wishing to pursue a career in this sector. This is an industry that lends itself well to vocational qualifications, with many disciplines that are best learned through hands-on experience with relevant educational support. We must be mindful of this as we digest the recommendations of the Wolf Report and its suggestion that many courses are of “little value”.

It is our belief that, in the leisure sector, training has always evolved to meet changing demands, a laudable achievement that other industries can learn from. I hope that the government recognises this fact and continues to support structured learning and apprenticeships for the sector.

David Grailey is the chief executive of NCFE, the qualification awarding body

Read other FE News articles by David Grailey:

Academic standards must not be permitted to threaten the role of Apprenticeships

NCFE CEO David Grailey on why it’s vital we support learners to ‘Get Set for Work’

Shining examples of entrepreneurship


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