EREPS has recently completed a survey of its membership with the aims of offering better support and identifying any shifting trends in the employment status of fitness professionals. The survey was completed by 439 individual respondents and so gives an excellent sample of the current EREPS membership. The results from this and future surveys will be invaluable in shaping the future direction of EREPS and the on-going professionalisation of the European fitness and physical activity workforce.
Of the 439 respondents 62% were male and 38% female. Responses were well spread across age groups:
- 18-24 years old - 10%
- 25-30 years old - 25%
- 31-40 years old - 34%
- 41-50 years old - 19%
- 50+ years old - 12%
It is encouraging to see that respondents show some longevity in the fitness profession with 70% of respondents having worked in the industry for more than 2 years and 44% over 5 years.
In terms of employment status, working in the fitness and physical activity sector offers a range of employment possibilities with 44% of respondents to the survey being employed full time, 42% part-time and 22% on a casual basis. Such a spread of employment conditions offers opportunities for those wishing to engage with the sector on a full-time basis but also to those wishing to supplement other careers or life commitments with part-time or casual work. In an age of increasingly flexible working conditions this should generally be seen as positive. Casual employment for instance can provide pros and cons for employees at different times in their lives, whilst allowing employers to adjust their workforce according to their specific needs. However, such variety of employment terms could make it difficult for that workforce to mobilise itself, establish a genuine professional identity and consolidate attractive working conditions and terms.
The flexibility and potential for independent working that the fitness and physical activity sector offers is further represented in the fact that 59% of respondents to the survey are working independently as a self-employed fitness professional and 12% on a self-employed basis with a club operator. Job satisfaction ranked as the most important reason for working on this basis, with 60% of respondents indicating this as an extremely important reason for working independently. This level of independent working has many implications for the future of our sector and particularly fitness club/chain operators who may find it more difficult to fill fitness professional roles within their gyms.
The trend toward independent working is also reflected in the environments in which fitness professionals provide their services. Fitness clubs are the main environment with 55% indicating this as a place in which they deliver their services but online (42%), outdoor (34%) and home of customers (30%) also rank highly. The range of environments that fitness professionals are now working in is perhaps indicative of the fact that many have been forced to innovate during the Covid-19 pandemic which has revealed opportunities to diversify and reach out to their clients in a variety of ways.
In terms of the full time equivalent current income level of fitness professionals 81% of respondents stated that they earn less than 2,000 Euros a month and only 19% earn over 2,000 Euros a month (8% more than 3,000 Euros a month). These figures will clearly vary greatly from country to country and as outlined below have been influenced negatively by the Covid pandemic but are perhaps indicative of generally low levels of remuneration within our sector. There are many demands and an expectation that fitness professionals should be increasingly knowledgeable and skilled to be able to earn the respect of the health professions and others. However, as a sector we must consider whether this is reasonable if ultimately the financial rewards are not commensurate with this expectation.
It would be hoped that employers within our sector would increasingly recognise the need to remunerate qualified fitness professionals appropriately. Generally, if operators are to continue to access the number and quality of fitness professionals they will need to service their customer base they should continue to scrutinise the attractiveness of the package they offer to those professionals. In this context, it is useful to consider the importance that responding trainers gave to different aspects of their employment with gym operators. On a scale of ‘not at all important’ to ‘extremely important’ those responding ranked ‘Job stability’ highest (58% ranked as extremely important), ‘income potential’ second (54% ranked as extremely important), ‘association with operator brand’ third (37% ranked as extremely important) followed by the ‘availability of potential clients’ (30% ranked as extremely important). Perhaps the high ranking of job stability reflects the turbulent times we have been through. 11% of respondents to the survey indicated that they had been made redundant/lost job/left the fitness sector and 42% were working but on reduced hours/income as a result of the impact of Covid-19.
In terms of the upskilling that trainers intend to do over the next 12-18 months, their areas of focus reflected several trends in the sector. Training for programmes for specialist populations and with chronic health conditions, such as children, older adults, pre and postnatal, cardiac conditions, diabetes etc ranked highest with 66% of respondents indicating this as an area for upskilling. Virtual/online training also received 64% positive responses, while communications/behavioural management skills continue to be seen as an important area for further development (62% positive responses). Perhaps most interesting is the fact that training to support the mental health of clients also figured large with 63% positive responses. This is an encouraging sign of the recognition by fitness professionals of the importance of mental as well as physical health.
Finally, when asked to rate different aspects of their EREPS membership ‘providing evidence of qualifications/professionalism’ was ranked most highly with 81% of respondents indicating this as either ‘quite important’ or ‘extremely important’. ‘Facilitating work in another country’ also ranked highly (69% of respondents ranked this as ‘quite important’ or ‘extremely important’).
The EREPS Member Survey 2022 has yielded some highly useful insights into the nature and opinions of the EREPS Membership. Perhaps the most notable are the range of employment situations (full-time, part-time and casual), the prevalence of independent self-employment within the membership, the range of environments in which fitness services are now being delivered and the apparent low levels of pay within the sector.
EREPS members express their intentions to upskill in a number of key areas (e.g. working with chronic health conditions, online training) and recognise the importance of their professional status. These factors suggest a commitment to their profession and, to progressing personal learning and skills. For its part, EuropeActive and EREPS will work to facilitate on-going communications with EREPS members, employer stakeholders and others in the best interests of the Sector.