Employers representing over 2,000 clubs across Europe took part in EuropeActive's 6th edition of the annual skills survey where the findings and trends help provide the evidence and direction for future qualification and skills development of fitness professionals. Results were received from employers across 22 different European countries.
The 2020 survey included some additional questions from previous years which provided the result that 26% of all fitness trainers are self-employed, and that in the future 50% of employers expect this percentage to increase, whilst 25% were undecided.
There was a small increase in the response of employers saying that it was easy or very easy for them to recruit the trainers they needed (up from 16% to 19%), and nearly 40% of all new appointments were personal trainers. Recruitment is now identified as a critical area for the sector with 115,000 current vacancies for fitness trainers across Europe.
The importance of communication & customer service skills
The No1 skills area that employers look for when recruiting are personal/communication skills and customer service skills (92% and 88%). Technical skills remain important (especially for group fitness instructors), but in decline over the years, and surprisingly, are digital skills which remain quite low in the list of requirements with just 39% of employers saying that they are important/essential. The presumption would appear to be that trainers already have very high IT/digital/social media skills. The results also indicate that around 50% of employers would like to recruit trainers with previous experience, and that personal appearance is regarded as being especially important.
Additional and multiple training skills are required
64% of employers reported that they “always” or “nearly always” had to give additional training to their new recruits with personal/communication skills and customer service skills (55% and 61% respectively) as the highest demand. This has been an area of concern for the sector for many years but shows no sign of being resolved in current vocational training. 40% of employed said that that current training and education “never”, or “almost never” gave fitness trainers the skills that they were looking for when recruiting.
Over the past years there has been a constant requirement from employers (87% saying it is important or essential in this survey), that personal trainers should be able to work with more diverse populations (e.g. children, older adults, overweight, etc.). This aspect is being considered in a current review of EuropeActive’s standards. One clear way for employers to promote the importance of good qualifications and training is through their support of the European Register of Exercise Professionals and ensuring that their trainers are registered. However, only 50% of employers in the survey reported that they were aware of EREPS.
EuropeActive's impact on qualifications
The continued high level of expectation for harmonisation of qualifications (certification) of fitness trainers at a European level supports the work that EuropeActive has initiated through EU funded project activities and how it is integrating its qualifications onto National Qualification Frameworks. The results of the 2019 employer skills survey will provide additional evidence to the work of EuropeActive’s project “Blueprint for skills cooperation and employment” with its foresight work into future skills needs. The findings and recommendations being developed through the Sector Skills Alliance and Professional Standards Committee will help EuropeActive and its partners to build the permanent structures and processes to continue with the development of skills and human resources for the European fitness sector.