In 2015 EuropeActive completed the referencing of fitness occupations with an expert group that is re-classifying sectors of economic activities through a new process called European Skills Competencies Qualifications and Occupations (ESCO). This is an initiative at the European Commission with DG Employment and the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training - further details are available at:

https://ec.europa.eu/esco/home

ESCO is the multilingual classification of European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations and is part of the Europe 2020 strategy. The ESCO classification identifies and categorises skills, competences, qualifications and occupations relevant for the EU labour market and education and training. It systematically shows the relationships between the different concepts.

In the expert group covering cultural arts, entertainment, sport and active leisure EuropeActive and the European Confederation of Outdoor Employers (EC-OE) have helped to develop an organogram that positions the main occupations for the active leisure sector – as shown below.

Sport & Active Leisure Organogram

The ESCO process also required the development of some sector definitions:

Active leisure is a combination of fitness and outdoor-based activities that are generally unstructured and non-competitive. They promote active, healthy lifestyles through activities, events and exercise. They are commonly provided under the direction of qualified animators or instructors so that the activities are tailored to match the abilities of the participants and meet their needs in an enjoyable and safe way.

The fitness sector uses qualified instructors and trainers to deliver diverse, structured exercise programmes that help people of all ages and abilities to improve their health, muscle and cardiovascular endurance, coordination, balance, agility and flexibility. Fitness programmes also build a feeling of individual wellbeing that establishes and helps to maintain a healthy balance of mind, body and spirit.

In addition to EuropeActive being a contributor to the ESCO referencing work we are actively pursuing a new skills agenda together with EC-OE to better understand the current skills gaps and shortages in the active leisure sector. EuropeActive is acutely aware of the many transversal skills and important synergies between active leisure and sport, as well as the need for a broad cooperation with many stakeholders.

EuropeActive can also foresee opportunities with the new Directive 2013/55/EU – amending Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications – for the prospect of a European common training framework and a future professional card (or professional passport) for fitness trainers. In a sector with very high levels of mobility, the time has come to encourage more automatic recognition of qualifications and facilitate the free movement of professionals in the EU and as an exponent of EREPS Programme.

The new European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has frequently stressed the need to address the remaining obstacles to a fully functioning single market for goods and services. Among other initiatives, the Commission 2015 Work Plan foresees «a deeper and fairer internal market», which includes a labour mobility package.

One of the key priorities of the new Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union (from 1 July to 31 December 2015) is to ensure a 'better functioning of the principle of mutual recognition'.

The European Parliament is also making its voice heard. In its recent report on 'Creating a competitive EU labour market for the 21st century: matching skills and qualifications with demand and job opportunities, as a way to recover from the crisis', the EP stressed «the importance of the mobility of workers for a competitive labour market, and the need to reduce the administrative barriers that are liable to restrain it».

The benefits for Member States of adopting a common qualification framework and mutually recognise fitness professionals’ diplomas are twofold. First, they will attenuate disparities in the levels of unemployment between countries, as stated in the European Commission DG EMPL’s '2014 Labour Market and Wage Developments in Europe' report. Second, they will foster more active, healthy and productive societies, contributing to the sustainability of our healthcare and social security systems.

EuropeActive recognises that the European health and fitness sector needs to be a “people-focused” business, with the skills and motivations of the people who work as coaches, teachers and instructors at the heart of it. It is these inspirational people who can make a positive difference at so many different levels to citizens across Europe. The Professional Standards Committee will keep these areas of policy development under close review.

Further information on EuropeActive position papers covering education and training, new skills development and Directive 2013/55EC can be found at: http://www.europeactive.eu/eu/eu-affairs