Working out the challenges in the exercise industry

Realigning workforce qualifications with practical skills, developing a financially-sustainable business model, and convening stakeholders over challenges and opportunities, will contribute to a thriving exercise industry in Aotearoa.

These are among key findings of He rangi whawhati kō, he tau hāwere workforce development plan (WDP) developed for Toi Ora (Sport, Recreation and Cultural Organisations) by Toi Mai Workforce Development Council.

Following extensive engagement with the exercise industry, the WDP identified a number of key themes:

  • Qualifications, training and pathways are not well aligned with industry requirements.
  • Commercial gym models are a barrier to a thriving and sustainable workforce.
  • The exercise industry needs to broaden its appeal to diverse populations.
  • The industry has no forum to collectively address its challenges.

Te Tumu o Toi | CEO of Toi Mai, Dr Claire Robinson says, “although the exercise industry is an aspirational area of work for many, particularly the younger workforce, and with participation forecast to continue a significant growth trend, particularly in group training, systemic workforce issues are causing high attrition.”

Robinson says the plan has put forward three recommendations and four actions intended to grow the skilled and experienced workforce required to tackle the growing health and wellbeing challenges faced by the population today.

“We want all our sectors to ‘Thrive by ’35’. Our goal for the exercise industry is that by 2035 people will want to enter the exercise industry because it is a fulfilling and sustainable career, with clear pathways for trainers to thrive and excel in their particular training styles.

“Equipped with the right tools, we want to see people moving through the exercise industry with ease and upskilling or changing specialisation while continuing to work. We want to see a supportive and encouraging sector that produces diverse graduates who hit the ground running and are able to confidently work within a range of communities.”

Robinson encourages exercise professionals and education providers to provide feedback on the plan’s actions and recommendations.

“Toi Mai wishes to thank all stakeholders who have previously contributed their valuable time to help us advance this WDP to the consultation phase.

“Now we need to know if we have got that thinking right. We are encouraging industry members, learners, education providers and those with an interest in the Toi Ora sector to have an important say in shaping its future.”

Stakeholder feedback will inform the final recommendations and help produce a roadmap the industry, government and others can use to realise the productive potential of the sector.

Consultation on He rangi whawhati kō, he tau hāwere is open until 22 July. For details on the consultation process visit the Toi Ora webpage.

Key Facts:

  • Toi Mai is one of six Workforce Development Councils established in 2021. The WDCs have a legislative remit to align education and training with industry needs, and to raise the skills and vocational training available to industries.
  • Toi Mai aims to ensure the creative, cultural, recreation and technology sectors in Aotearoa – Ngā Peka o Toi – are supported by a skilled, diverse and thriving workforce.
  • Stakeholder feedback is currently being sought on four new workforce development plans and one industry development plan developed in close collaboration with industry stakeholders.
  • Toi Ora encompasses recreational and cultural organisations and the workforce that supports them, including activities, technologies and places that foster wellbeing, physically, mentally and socially. This workforce development plan (WDP) focuses on the exercise industry within that sector.
  • There has been a 98% increase in the number of exercise businesses in the decade to 2022 to reach 1,122.
  • Of the approximately 5,200 people employed in the industry in 2022, 20.4% were Māori, 9% Pacific peoples and 62% women – all three above population parity.
  • 20% of the adult population of Aotearoa New Zealand are members of a commercial exercise facility. A groundswell of community-based exercise initiatives that focus on wellbeing, connection and other social issues are proving effective in reaching untapped markets and the significant growth trend in participation is forecast to continue.
  • The historical legacy rent model is causing high industry churn. Of those who joined the sector in 2018, only 42% remained after one year and only 25% after two years.
  • Current training in the sector is predominantly geared towards theory-based, traditionally assessed education and leaves critical gaps in developing practical coaching, interpersonal and business skills.
  • The title of the WDP He rangi whawhati kō, he tau hāwere means ‘A day of broken tools, a year of abundance,’ referring to the metaphor of māra kai (food gardens) and the sustenance and oranga (life) they provide for the iwi (tribe). As such, there is a nice correlation between māra kai and the exercise industry within Toi Ora, which also provides oranga for the community.