As school leavers receive their GCSE Results (Thursday August 25, 2016) they must decide on their next steps in education or training. Some will opt for A Levels while others may look for a job, training programme or apprenticeship to set them on a career path.

This year, another option is available to those who have an interest in the leisure industry, becoming a personal trainer or instructor, a community healthcare provider or even a gym owner or manager. The new Active IQ Tech Level Diploma in Physical Activity, Fitness & Exercise is a truly innovative, vocational programme that delivers a robust and comprehensive theoretical and practical course to prepare school leavers for work in the leisure and fitness industry.

With healthcare issues, obesity, diabetes, physical inactivity and an ageing population challenging the nation’s health, the fitness and leisure industry has huge scope to grow as a profession. It represents a great opportunity for young people with the aptitude to learn and succeed in an industry growing in both stature and importance.

The Active IQ Tech Level Diploma has been developed in response to industry consultation and research to equip learners with the skills to succeed in a fulfilling career. It provides the equivalent of £7,500 worth of technical certificates and students can gain a host of qualifications which employers recognise including Fitness Instructor, Customer Service, Personal Training, Circuits, Kettlebells, Group Exercise, Exercise to Music, Aqua, Leisure Operations, Exercise for Children and Adolescents, Sport and Performance Nutrition. It also covers a raft of life skills that will provide keys to career success including: Personal & Professional Development; Enterprise & Entrepreneurship; Marketing Products & Services and Tech, Sport & Exercise. On completion of the course, students gain access to the REPs / CIMSPA professional registers to get their career off to a strong start.

Active IQ requires students to engage meaningfully with local employers through activities like work experience, interview days or special Q&A sessions. Local employers’ specific needs are taken into account by the colleges who can then train the students to fulfil the local demand, giving them a strong chance of finding work as soon as they are qualified. This market-entry qualification, after completing a further education course in college, is unlike anything else in the leisure sector and gives real opportunities to both school leavers and their prospective employers.

“A Levels aren’t for everyone but vocational training away from a classroom setting isn’t always successful for school leavers who at the age of 16 and 17 will still benefit from the college setting with tutor and group support,” says Jenny Patrickson, Managing Director at Active IQ. “Our new college-based tech level diploma gives the best of both worlds by providing professional training and qualifications in a classroom setting. There is definitely a need for truly vocational qualifications delivered in this way to this age group and we’re pleased to be leading the way in our industry.”

The two year Diploma in Physical Activity, Fitness and Exercise Science was recognised by the Department for Education in January 2016 and now qualifies for funding. Importantly, the Diploma carries UCAS points, enabling students to keep their options open and progress into work or take a university pathway at the end of their course. Thirty seven colleges across the UK are approved to deliver it from September 2016. The first year qualifies students to Level 2 meaning they could work as a gym instructor. The second year qualifies students to Level 3 meaning they could work as a personal trainer, amongst multiple other roles in the leisure sector. There are mandatory and optional units in both years with the options allowing students to choose different pathways, according to their interest and ability such as Group Exercise, Leisure Operations, Health & Wellbeing, Higher Education or Management.

The assessments are available ‘on demand’ giving the college flexibility to assess learners at the best time. Thus if learners are ready earlier, they can get some assessments out of the way and focus on other aspects of the course: conversely, more time can be allowed for slower learners. This allows colleges to be more fluid in their delivery and improves the chance of success. The results are returned by Active IQ within just three working days allowing both students and colleges to progress quickly to the next stage.

“The Physical Activity, Fitness and Exercise Science Tech Level Diploma benefits students, colleges and employers,” says Jenny. “Students gain because they are able to study for a professional qualification at no cost and with complete support from their tutor and peer group plus valuable work experience with local employers. Colleges gain because they can offer something truly vocational and valuable that will prepare their students for the world of work or additional study at university. And employers gain by seeing a fresh pool of talent with skills and training that have been adapted to suit their exact needs.”

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