In welcoming the concept of the EU’s move to consider and address the Sport and Active Leisure sector across its member states, it is crucial to acknowledge the breadth and intricacies of what we class as ‘sport’, along with the implications this has for our workforce.
Our work programme and main activities contribute to the development and implementation of policy and actions of Community cooperation in the field of education and training by developing and implementing the strategy for Life Long Learning in the Sport and Active Leisure sector in support of the elements of the European White Paper on Sport published by the European Commission in July 2007 especially related to Vocational Qualifications, EQF and ECVET, and the goal of supporting the mobility of workers across Europe within a quality assurance framework of occupational standards (EQARF), vocational training and qualifications developed and supported by social partners within the Sport and Active Leisure sector and endorsed by the relevant National Authorities.
Recently, through the EQF-Sport project (run by EOSE between 2007-2008), the common Lifelong Learning Strategy to develop occupational standards has been developed for the whole Sport and Active Leisure sector (see figure below) and, in order to be able to highlight relevant competences needed by the workforce, the first step of that process consists on being able to define precisely the Sport and Active Leisure sector and to have an updated overview at the European Level including the main characteristics, statistics, data, changes and realities in terms of Labour Market, Education etc.
One of the key objectives of EOSE is now to use the classifications revised through the EQF-Sport project (2008) for Activities (NEARS) and Occupations (NEORS) in each of the member states to collect comparable data and be in position to obtain a precise map of employment for the sector. Indeed, it is important for the sector to be able to present itself as an important element of the economy but the lack of updated data available to define the sector (Vocasport, 2004) seriously reduce and limit its economic and employment value and impact at the European level.
The sector is actually underestimated and there is a strong need expressed by all key stakeholders and EU Sport Networks part of the Alliance to conduct a large EU research project activity to be able to collect relevant and comparable data and so define the sector precisely with strong data and facts. Such employment statistics and LMI are essential if the sector is to achieve the recognition it deserves. It is encouraging to see that the white paper has recognised the lack of up to date and comparable data at the EU level and encourage further research at the European level.
The sector is growing fast across EU and, as it was highlighted through past activities carried out, the employers are seeking well trained employees able to match the requirements of a more demanding clientele. Overall, there is a gap between the competencies required by sport employers and the learning outcomes acquired by employees through training.
The Lifelong Learning Strategy for the Sport and Active Leisure sector (EOSE, 2009)
The LLL Strategy for Sport has been developed at the EU level in order to:
- promote a transparent and flexible education and training system with clear learning and career pathways
- ensure the development of a competent workforce with the right skills and competences in line with the expectation of the employers, to facilitate the movement between education and employment
- develop mobility, transparency and mutual trust of qualifications, raise standards and facilitate the growth of business opportunities.
THE SECTOR APPROACH - All main stakeholders shall work together to:
- Organise the Sport and Active Leisure Sector at EU level
- To respond to the VET challenges
- To establish, disseminate and implement a framework for workforce development and Lifelong Learning through EQF
- To implement the EU White Paper on Sport
- Objectives: mobility, transparency, recognition of qualifications, competences and skills, link between employment and training, career pathways etc
The White Paper has presented a new opportunity for EOSE, the Alliance and the Sport sector to continue the work undertaken insofar as this paper encourages and highlights the importance of our main areas of interest which are Vocational Education and Training (VET), Social Dialogue and Health and Physical Activity.
The diagram below illustrates the contribution sport makes to society and it is clear to see that Education and Training play a major role in this development. Whether we are talking about elite level sport, welcoming visitors to a country or using a given sport to engage disadvantaged groups, the skills of those employed in the sector are a central feature if sport is to fulfil its potential. EOSE believe that recognition of the varying role of the sector, along with the underlying theme of workforce development warrants specific attention.
The Sport and Active Leisure sector and its potential (EOSE, 2009)
REALITIES AND BARRIERS OF THE SECTOR:
- What is offered in the academic field is not enough regarded as relevant by employers and federations
- Talent is wasted: there is no clear career structure and graduates cannot find employment in sport
- The economic and employment potential of Sport is not recognised/understood
- Sport is fragmented (by sports, by sub-sectors e.g. commercial / volunteer / public) – poor communication and co-operation
- Sport training is aimed at the needs of the volunteer
- Sport training (in most states) sits outside the national qualification structure for most countries
WHY SHOULD SPORT ENGAGE WITH EQF? If sport is to fulfil its potential it needs:
- A competent workforce (paid & unpaid)
- Offer jobs and a career structure
- To define the competences, skills & knowledge needed for those jobs
- To ensure there are qualifications and training that equip people to work in sport because many jobs in sport require specific technical knowledge and skills (health and safety is very important)
THE IMPORTANCE OF SKILLS:
Acknowledgement of the importance of a competent and qualified workforce is crucial and the task of EOSE is therefore of great significance and look forward to dialogue on a regularly basis with the European Commission and obtain a strong support on the importance of this work for the sector.
Sport is a people-facing sector, where the engagement of others, whether this is at the grass roots or high performance end of the spectrum, is paramount to its success. Moreover, sport is ingrained across all communities, affecting a large percentage of the population, and is used to address wider Government agendas including health, social inclusion, regeneration and education. If we are to meet these challenges, it is imperative that those working or volunteering in face to face roles, at the delivery end of the sector, are equipped with the necessary skills through fit for purpose qualifications.
THE NEED FOR RECOGNITION:
As the European Union continues to expand, the Commission has placed an increased emphasis on increasing the mobility of workers. Simultaneously, as the Sport and Active Leisure sector continues to grow and flourish, employers are constantly seeking a range of competent and qualified individuals, who are often difficult to find on the European labour market. VET is practically non-existent or very limited in the sports sector in a number of countries and there is a current lack of co-ordination at the European level, which clearly limits staff mobility, transparency and employment potential. Through EOSE and the Alliance, the sector is trying to organise itself at the European level to respond to the VET challenges.
MAIN CHALLENGES AND PRIORITIES OF THE SECTOR IN EUROPE:
- To bring together the major stakeholders to work through consultation
- To ensure the development of a competent workforce with the rights skills in the Sport and Active Leisure sector in Europe
- Take the major opportunity created by EQF to coordinate qualification & training for VET and HE in the sector
- To raise higher qualification standards related to the needs of the labour market within countries, develop mobility, transparency and mutual trust of qualifications, and growth of business opportunities
- To strengthen and support professional career pathways and the voluntary sector
- To make easier the movement between education and employment & support the Lifelong Learning process
- Strengthen the sector approach through EOSE / Alliance (single voice)
- Update the Labour Market and Skills Map across Europe
- Continue to agree National / EU Competence Standards for key occupations of the sector
- Align sport qualifications with national systems
- Disseminate and share good practices to develop a competent Sport and Active Leisure workforce with the right skills
- Support and strengthen social dialogue
- Sector partnership with the EU Commission
- Strengthen our Observatory Network