CIMSPA “Leading by Listening” event report

Wales Event Still.jpg

In November 2018 the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA) held a consultation event at Cardiff Metropolitan University to explore how CIMSPA can contribute to the delivery of the Vision for Sport in Wales, and to get input on how we can adapt our work to best help the Welsh sport and physical activity workforce.

Over 20 stakeholder organisations confirmed their attendance, with representatives from Zip World, Ospreys in the Community, Pembrokeshire Leisure and Sport, CIMSPA Youth Panel, Street Games, Table Tennis Wales, Welsh Rowing, Welsh Cycling, Welsh Netball and Sport Wales in the room.

Professor Leigh Robinson, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Cardiff Metropolitan University, opened the consultation day with a call for strong collaborative work, in particular to enhance graduate employability for those with sector-specific degrees.

Tara Dillon, CIMSPA CEO provided a full briefing on our continued work to establish a recognised and respected profession for those working in the sector. Those in the room also heard updates on the CIMSPA membership and partnership offer and on the CIMSPA professional standards, apprenticeships and higher education endorsement projects.

The main focus of the day was listening. The meeting split into table discussions broadly covering operators, national governing bodies of sport and Sport Wales. The debates were lively, challenging and revealed how CIMSPA needs to both ensure that its work in Wales delivers real value for operators and NGBs, and that projects should be delivered through local partnerships.


Question 1: What are the challenges facing the Welsh sport and physical activity workforce?

The “operator” perspective

  • There is a workforce shortage at the grass roots level with employers having to rely on school leavers who aren’t necessarily “choosing” to work in the sector, that results in high staff turnover.

  • Career pathways need to be established to make working in the sector more attractive to potential staff. The current reality is a variable quality of recruits who aren’t really sure what the sector offers them.

  • Right now, sector specific education and qualifications doesn’t translate into “Day 1” job-ready employability, so employers have to compensate with costly retraining highlighting a real “skills shortage”.

  • “Education to employer” partnerships need to improve, as does the core employment offer.

  • CIMSPA must work to make students and the wider workforce more aware of CIMSPA, and to provide a clear value proposition as to why individuals should join/have a relationship with a professional body.

  • A high-quality two year apprenticeship programme for aspiring managers would have real value.

The Sport Wales perspective

  • How we define and explain our sector needs to modernise as some labels are now arguably dated e.g. “leisure” and “sports development”. Instead, job roles, skills and boundaries are changing and blurring, for example between traditional sports development and community sport. Professionally-hybrid, flexible, multi-skilled staff – with soft skills as well as core technical knowledge – are needed, and the CIMSPA sector-mapping and professional standards work must embrace and reflect this.

  • All sector staff need to understand both the foundations of service delivery – such as budget, customer engagement, measuring performance and impact – as well as their role within this. Individuals must recognise that our world is a commercial one and the workforce needs to align with this new normal.

  • The evolution of sector-specific higher/further education products hasn’t kept pace with industry trends and priorities. Education needs to catch up to ensure its technical/degree products maintain relevance and value.

  • Human resource planning needs to be more creative around talent recruitment, development and retention, with a real focus needed on developing a diverse workforce – both in experience and background – the sector must commit to workforce diversity, from volunteer through to CEO level.

  • We all need to keep in mind that “traditional” services, such as leisure and exercise/fitness, are not the only way to deliver national priorities for a healthy and active nation. Health hubs with GP/Healthcare services and non-traditional use of Sports and Physical Activity spaces were discussed.   

  • The value of alternative sector-entry/development pathways, such as apprenticeships and ongoing CPD, need to be highlighted and celebrated.

The national governing body perspective

  • The needs of paid and voluntary professionals must be identified and considered differently.

  • Nationwide buy-in to any unified approach to sector professional standards and workforce regulation may require regulation/legislation and some Welsh NGBs won’t commit without drive and direction from the Welsh Assembly. If this is linked or attached to funding most NGBs will commit.

  • There is a perception that, at this point in time, the benefits of nationwide workforce development standards for larger NGBs who already have their own frameworks is arguably marginal.

  • The “workforce that develops the workforce” – coach developers are key actors here. Are there enough professionals in Wales with these skills?

  • A unified set of sector-agreed professional standards could have real value for sports looking to influence the school sports world, particularly in terms of managing reputational risk.


Question 2: How do you want CIMSPA to work in Wales?

Operator/Sport Wales perspectives and challenges

  • The CIMSPA presence in Wales is relatively small-scale right now and CIMSPA must define its relevance and value to the Welsh sector. Questions around how professional body memberships are funded and regulation/registration requirements need to be explored and resolved.

  • The table saw positives in recruiting more people into CIMSPA membership, getting more awareness in place, more people around the table, and then see how this momentum might drive partnerships and sector success.

  • CIMSPA should increase its market-awareness with students and other potential sector professionals.

  • Some organisations in Wales already have buy-in and support for CIMSPA work, such as GLL and Halo Leisure. There was a pragmatic view that employment opportunities in Wales are sometimes limited so acknowledging the UK-wide perspective is important.

  • The lack of talent pipelines for aspiring managers is a real challenge – CIMSPA must address this to meet operator needs.

  • Whilst the operators around the table were keen to have a Welsh professional development board to develop nation-specific professional standards, this is not yet a Sport Wales policy position.

  • On the subject of stronger HE/employer partnerships, CIMSPA were challenged to convince stakeholders including Sport Wales as to why they should lead on this and what value they can add.

  • The Sport Wales team present were positive and clear throughout the discussions that they will continue to listen to the sector and translate this insight into programmes to benefit the sector and national health/activity goals.

National governing body perspectives and challenges

  • CIMSPA needs to be very clear on the tangible benefits of its work to NGBs.

  • CIMSPA must also explain the value of its work at every sector-level: the individual, the organisation, and across both the Welsh and UK-wide sport and physical activity sector.

  • Some NGB’s GB associations have already bought in to the CIMSPA project and have promoted this to Welsh sporting professionals. So, a position might emerge where some Welsh NGBs participate in the CIMSPA workforce development project whilst others do not.

  • A series of partner organisation workshops would be welcomed to explain how CIMSPA would like to work in Wales.

  • NGB CEOs need to be a part of debates and discussions such as those taking place today.

  • The implementation of a Welsh professional development board to lead on standards development would be welcomed.


What Happens Now?

CIMSPA will now perform a formal review of the information and data collected at the event. We have already started work on developing a clear strategy of how we feel we can best work with our stakeholders in Wales and the intelligence garnered from our Leading by Listening event will prove to be imperative to this process. Our aim is to return in the new year with clear aims before putting these strategies out for wider consultation.

Cardiff Met Logo UNOFF Blue.png

Thank you to our hosts Cardiff Metropolitan University

We at CIMSPA would like to express our gratitude to Cardiff Metropolitan University for hosting our event. We would like to thank the conference team for all their help and support in building one of our most successful consultations to date.